If you watch shows like “Live PD,” you will see police responding to calls being confronted by dogs. Sometimes the dogs run out of their homes. Other times it is loose dogs in vehicles.
Multiple news reports and videos have surfaced over the years about officers who felt the need to at least use a stun gun, if not use lethal force, when confronted with dogs behaving aggressively.
As dog owners, we have a responsibility to try to increase safety between first responders and our dogs.
Think about how stressing it is for us when we call first responders. At least we know why the oddly dressed, quickly moving, equipment-toting strangers are on our property.
All the things we associate with people coming to help can be very scary for our dogs. Even a social, friendly family pet can exhibit undesired behaviors when responders enter our home.
Never assume Rover will willingly allow them in to do their work.
Even if Rover is truly acting friendly, his exuberance to greet his new friends can impede their ability to work.
Have a game plan for what will happen if first responders must be called to your home. You want to secure your dogs before first responders arrive. Teach your dogs a cue to go to a crate, back room, secure yard, some place safe where your dogs will be out of the way.
Practice it regularly and make it fun! You do not want to have your dog associate this behavior with stress. Make sure your kids are taught how to secure your dogs if needed.
When my oldest was in third grade, he was home while my husband was doing yard work. Sarah and I were out socializing our new puppy.
Thanks to Northern Virginia traffic, it was going to take over an hour to get home.
As luck would have it, my husband ended up severely injured and 911 had to be called. Connor remembered to put up the dogs before the ambulance arrived.
Use what I call the ABCs of first responder safety to help remember what to do if you must call 911 (or even non-emergency numbers to have someone come out for any reason).
A - Alert emergency dispatch to any dogs in your home.
B - Before police or emergency crews arrive, get your dog to a safe, secure place where he cannot escape. (Even if you have a small dog or one you assume is friendly, please secure ALL dogs.)
C - Call someone to get your dog if needed. (Have a backup plan with someone you trust).
What about if you are in your car? Your dog should be secured when riding in a vehicle. The safest place is in a crate that is secured in the back seat with a carefully chosen dog restraint. A loose dog is at greater risk of escaping or causing trouble for police or rescue.
If your dog is a service animal, talk to your trainer to make sure your dog is capable of handling people assisting you. There was a case not too long ago when hospital staff needed to remove a service animal because he was aggressive and hindered staff ability to treat the owner. I realize there may be times when you cannot secure your dog after emergency services are called. However, when at all possible, do what you can to keep your dog safer when you have to call police, fire or rescue.
Karen Peak is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project and owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.