Would Your Dog Survive an Encounter with Law Enforcement?
There have been some pretty horrific stories in the media lately about police officers shooting people’s pet dogs.
One was a 12 year old Golden Retriever who had simply wandered away from his home. When the officer went to look at his ID tags the dog showed his teeth, the officer felt threatened and shot the dog.
I can’t imagine the horror of losing your dog in such a way.
For a Moment I will Play Devil’s Advocate
Although I can make ABSOLUTELY NO excuses for Boomer, the Golden Retriever’s death or that of Cisco the Cattle Dog that was shot when the officer went to the wrong address (both were severely horrific cases) with no good reason for the amount of force used. Common sense on the part of the officer should be as mandatory as how they treat a human being.
At one time I decided I was going to be a cop. I had an offer to work K9 but had to work my way through the system which probably meant a few years on nights.
Quite frankly I would have made a great cop. I am calm in a crisis, don’t mind blood, and think I would have been able to offer compassion in needed moments. I passed all the physical tests; scaling a fence, sliding under a fence, through a hole, through a window and lugging a 250# dummy over a line all within a few minutes…but in order to go farther I would have had to stop training Service Dogs and my nonprofit organization.
Working nights and then training dogs and clients all day would not have lasted long. So, I decided to stick with Service Dogs for the disabled.
The experience and preparing to condition myself physically and mentally to enter the police force gave me a different take on most situations.
That single mother you pull over on a traffic violation might be an armed drug runner, and a dog threatening to hurt you might give a killer that moment to get to his gun and shoot you.
They say that traffic stops and domestic violence are some of the scariest calls because you really don’t know what you are getting into.
Put yourself in the officers shoes for a moment. Not only might he be scared of dogs, he doesn’t want to give a potential criminal a chance to get the upper hand on him, get away, or have the opportunity to kill him.
So How Do We Keep Our Dogs Safe…
Teach your dogs manners, to the best of your ability. Manners, obedience and control may help save their lives.
I was once pulled over in Wyoming going 95 miles per hour…before you judge have you ever driven in Wyoming? There is not much to look at and before you know it you are speeding along singing your lungs out to Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” (well maybe that part is just me).
As the officer walked up to my car, my dogs went a little nuts; barking and trying to keep a potential threat away from me. I was able to stop them from barking on command.
He told me to control my dogs or he would shoot them…
I was horrified and livid. They were only doing their job. I asked if I could exit my car with my information so that he would feel more at ease.
He agreed and allowed me to do so, and then he admitted why he was so defensive. He had once been a K9 officer and had seen the bite suit and bite sleeves in my car and he then realized his safety could be at risk.
He was a jerk, but I understood.
We even use to tell our Service Dog clients that if their dogs would not allow EMS and the police to help them in case of an emergency (they had fallen out of their wheelchairs or needed help) their dogs would be shot.
Teach your dog to be quiet (click here for more on that) on command.
And, some dogs need to be socialized with people in uniform.
The mailman, the UPS man, and other probable intruders come to your home and ring your doorbell…your dog barks viciously and they leave. The dog thinks he has scared them off and done his job, this gives him more confidence and less bite inhibition with people in uniform.
Also people in uniform tend to be more confident, self-assured and dominant. Ever seen an introverted cop? Not likely!
So dogs must be taught to have confidence with people in uniform but also to enjoy them as treat givers and normal people.
Work on your off leash obedience.
If your dog is ever off leash make sure he has near perfect obedience. You never know when a SWAT team might be in your neighborhood swarming a house and ready to make an arrest (I also witnessed this once while walking my dogs; on leash of course).
And, do your best to calmly explain to any officer if your dog is off leash or loose in the car that you would like the opportunity to restrain him first.
Never get belligerent or confrontational, be as nice and composed as possible.
I hope that our law enforcement around the country gets extra training on working with lose animals and how to restrain them without using deadly force, but until then all we can do is our best to keep our best friends as safe as possible.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.