As a serving police officer with 10 years’ experience, 7.5 years of it as a front line response officer, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the animals, be it adorable kittens, ponies wandering the high street at 3am, or dogs. The majority of my run-ins have either been with woofers that belong to the public or police dogs. Dogs belonging to the public have varied from friendly Frenchies to the slightly bitey (as experienced by my shin – see further down for the full story). The remainder of my experiences have been with police dogs, although I wouldn’t describe these as cute and cuddly, no matter how fluffy they might be. Walking across the police car park, manoeuvring behind a dog van, and having the fluffy monster start barking (scaring you half to death!) is something I’ve experienced on a number of occasions. Police dogs have extensive training from a young age – biting school, sniffing school, catching bad guy school; you know, stuff you want your police dog to know. They become non-discriminatory biting machines. If you run, they’ll chase, whether you’re a criminal or a police officer, they just love the thrill of the chase. I’ve seen it all first-hand. Police officers have been bitten due to the dog not knowing if they were friend, or foe. In contrast, I’ve seen them at public order events as drooling messes because they are so excited to see all the people that they can go play with. Police dogs are an asset, a credit to their species, and go through rigorous training. They attend difficult incidents all because they get a treat at the end of it or a chance to play with their ball, compared to their non-working counter parts which take any opportunity to cuddle and play. They are trained to deal with pressurised situations and to deal with them appropriately. Our own dogs don’t have this luxury. I tend to be a bit sceptical of other people’s dogs; police dogs? You know what their game is and can be sufficiently cautious, but other dogs can be hit and miss. Many a time I have gone in to people’s houses in full kit and been jumped on and licked to death by an overly friendly lab, Frenchie, or other type of dog. This is in stark contrast to what I find at burglaries, where dogs tend to be scared as a result of someone breaking in to their home. This fear from dogs is quite common at this time of year, especially with Halloween masks and darkness settling earlier. Even dogs who have not been present during crime can be scared by unfamiliar sights – such as me in kit! This was quite notable a few years ago when I attended a burglary. The owner had returned home to find their patio door broken and their belongings gone. I arrived a short while later at the front door and am stood speaking to the owner. Looking down the hall way I see a small shape run around the corner and start bounding down the corridor, then I hear the barking. I initially consider whether or not the dog is excited to see me and just wanted to come and play, but I also have to consider if the dog is aggressive. I decided that it wasn’t the latter due to the house having just been broken into and items stolen so clearly the dog didn’t do a good job scaring the burglars away(!). I kept my eye on the dog, which was by then hurtling towards me. I realise this isn’t some cute bat-eared French Bulldog but a much larger dog. Okay, I think, let’s see how this pans out… Badly as it turned out! The dog carried on running towards me and the closer he gets the more I can see his teeth – and then those teeth make a connection with my shin through my trousers, breaking skin and making me bleed. Well done woofer, well done. I guess he was just trying to make up for not biting the burglars and, being dressed in black, maybe I looked like a burglar. However, I’ll tell you what I didn’t enjoy, and that was the next 4 hours at the A+E, a rabies shot and subsequent tablets.
The point of this story is twofold; firstly, if a dog sees something that is an unfamiliar shape or size (such as a strange man in a stab vest or a trick-or-treater at the door) they may be fearful and try to protect their home. Secondly, please ensure that you keep your dog’s in a safe place over the coming few celebrations; we don’t want any poor unsuspecting trick or treaters (especially if they dress as police officers!) getting warned off the doorstep.
A thought to finish on though, do other dogs see police dogs and think “Oh no, it’s the police”?
Written by: Your Friendly Neighbourhood Bobby
(and yes, we know the photo is of an American Police Dog – but it’s so darn cute!)