Posted on Jan. 29, 2019 by VirTra Inc

Recent headlines in the news have brought up the problem of lawsuits against law enforcement from pet owners. Many of these stem from when a pet dies while an investigation is taking place. Whether the animal is acting aggressive or just reacting to the situation, it can be difficult to read the cues the dog is giving. There is also the factor of the dog’s owner. Are the officers dispatched to a domestic situation, and the dog is also on the receiving end of the owner’s abuse? Even worse, was the dog perhaps trained for fighting and doesn’t know the difference between those trying to help and the person that was abusive towards them? It can be incredibly difficult to tell the difference in a split-second decision. Hence the reason there have been so many situations that end badly. Officers want to go home safely, which is why the right law enforcement training is key to separating the aggressive cues versus the rest. However, standard police officer training usually does not include a comprehensive lesson to understand the differences.

Police Officer Canine Training to Improve Community Safety

With the right education, an officer can learn to recognize several sets of distinct behaviors including the eyes, face, and tail of a dog to understand better what the dog is trying to convey. Whether their ears are perked up or laid back flat against their head is an excellent example of how to read their body language. Jim Crosby, a certified dog behavior training expert, recently stated “The partnership between VirTra and LEDET enables, for the first time, officers to learn safe interactions in real time combining real behavior and live signaling with dogs. With these skills learned and practiced in the VirTra immersive environment, allow officers to interact with dogs safely. Officers also learn strategies for perceiving cues that carry over into hazardous, non-dog situations. Safe officers – safe dogs – safer communities. That’s our goal.” Another factor is how the dog barks. Is it short and high pitched or is it lower pitched longer and louder? These differences are the key to training officers on which dogs are aggressive and which others are normal behavior.

It’s Not Always the Police Officers Fault

Another factor is how the owner treats the dog before the officers ever arrive on the scene. Several studies have linked the likelihood of an animal owner to be abusive towards others if they have already abused their pets. Just last year in Canada, a survey completed by the University of Windsor, Ontario revealed “89% of women who had pets reported animal abuse at the hands of their partner.”1This risk is further increased by those who go beyond physical abuse to homicide or worse. While these facts are troubling to read, they are helpful to understand the dog’s behavior and adequately prepare officers for the field. This is why VirTra has specific dog training scenarios so that a variety of factors are available to train on for law enforcement.

VirTra Training for Law Enforcement Canine Encounters

VirTra created unique scenarios and partnered with the experts at Law Enforcement Dog Encounter Training (LEDET) to use the current science to enhance our library for the best training available on dog behavior. Our scenarios, created with the help of LEDET, provide a solution to this problem of legal settlements being awarded by training the officers on dog behavior. Departments that have started to incorporate these modules into their required training have seen a strong correlation between their officer’s response and a lower risk of litigation in this area. However, above all, this has also helped quite a few pets and kept their communities safer in the process.

Source: Barrett, B.J., Fitzgerald, A., Stevenson, R., & Cheung, C.H. (2017). Animal maltreatment as a risk marker of more frequent and severe forms of intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

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