When Police Encounter Dogs

The Risk of Law Enforcement Dog Encounters

Did you know that 53% of U.S. households have a dog? This amounts to 63 million homes – meaning a police officer is almost guaranteed to encounter a pet canine multiple times during their career. Most often, people think of dogs as friendly and loyal pets – and most of the time that is the case, however some dogs with a lack of training (or worse, they are trained to be aggressive) could cause harm to an officer or others.

With the frequency of officers entering residencies and parks where dogs may run unleashed, officers are likely to run into untrained or uncompliant dogs. While some may be friendly and curious, others are territorial and aggressive, making it difficult or even dangerous for officers to do their jobs.

On the other hand, officers should not be so swift to take lethal action towards an animal. Lethal methods of stopping a dog have resulted in lawsuits because, upon studying the aftermath, the dog wasn’t actually behaving in an aggressive manner. In 2016, a $60,000 lawsuit was filed against an agency after responding officers shot and killed three of a homeowner’s dogs. While there are times dogs can be deadly, there are signs that can predict whether or not an attack may happen.

For officers to gauge their safety, they must understand canine behavior, which comes from certain clues to indicate mood. For example, a dog with a wagging tail and relaxed posture is happy and very unlikely to bite or cause harm. On the other hand, dogs showing aggression by baring teeth, growling or maintaining a tense posture, indicate to officers that they should proceed with extreme caution.

Understanding Dog Behaviors

Learn and Practice with Simulation Training

To prevent injury to oneself and unnecessary harm to these pets, VirTra collaborated with the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse (NLECAA) and the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) to create the LEDET Dog Encounters nationally-certified curriculum.

To further training, VirTra produced many simulated scenarios that require officers to correctly identify a canine’s behavior. Our Law Enforcement Dog Encounters curriculum allows officers to practice interacting with these animals and learn how to quick spot identifiers and react appropriately.

A sneak peek into dog encounters curriculum

See How Scenarios Work and Branch During Training

One of the most popular VirTra Law Enforcement Dog Encounters curriculum is featured below. How it works is simple: officers begin by standing in front of the simulator. Then, the instructor loads the scenario, which begins with a dispatch call outlining the event. After, the scenario opens up to the house the officer was called to and shows a dog in the backyard behaving erratically. It is up to the officer to determine how to best respond to the canine.

Depending on the officer’s actions, the dog will respond appropriately. The instructor also has the power to cause the scenario to branch, as each scenario is built with dozens of branching options to allow officers to train the way protocol requires.

Nationally-Certified Law Enforcement Dog Encounters Curriculum

Certified Curriculum Ensures Best Training and Skill Transfer

Curriculum can be the difference between a good officer and a great officer. To ease the instructor’s workload while simultaneously providing the best training materials, VirTra went through the effort of having our Dog Encounters curriculum nationally-certified through IADLEST. IADLEST’s National Certification Program sets the POST training standard for 36+ states and works to improve training nationwide.

By having this curriculum both POST approved and nationally-certified, departments automatically receive training hours when the curriculum is taught. Whether this curriculum is used to help veterans brush up on their skills or teach trainees the foundation, this V-VICTA™ curriculum effectively prepares law enforcement members for potentially canine encounters.

V-VICTA—VirTra’s Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy—oversees all nationally-certified curriculum, including Dog Encounters. Other certified curricula within the V-VICTA program include: Active Threat / Active Killer, De-Escalation, High Risk Vehicle Stop, and more. All V-VICTA curriculum is free with every law enforcement simulator, saving departments ample man-hours and thousands of dollars.

To learn about our Law Enforcement Dog Encounters coursework developed by NSA and NLECAA and brought to simulation by VirTra, please visit our website or contact a VirTra specialist.