This is going to be my very public statement to one police captain Matt Lydon of the Vacaville Police Department in Vacaville, CA.
I would like to address your responses in the recently released statements to ABC 7 in regards to the recently graduated K-9 Handler who was video tapped sitting on his PARTNER punching him repeatedly in the head.
First as a credentialed dog behavior consultant and a certified professional dog trainer who happens to own a behaviorally discharged LE K-9 who was retired to me after biting his K9 handler for the same type of "Dominance" supplied interventions I thought I would share first some facts about dog behavior and training and then resources for your department.
First Dominance theory as it applies to dog training does not exist. Your handlers already control everything a dog could find motivating. Food, sleep, access to work, play, human engagement, etc. Your working dog, pet dog, etc will never be trying to stage a coup or need to have an alpha. Dominance theory was a hypothesis that started in the 1940s and after decades of studying captive non-familial wolves, captive familial wolves, non-captive familial wolves, and domestic dogs they realized they were wrong. Wolves have a familial structure like parents and children unless they are forced into close proximity with non-related wolves. Then they are constantly having to engage in natural behaviors for space resources etc.
While domestic dogs have a social hierarchy it is not at all like the concept of dominance. Alpha rolls is engaging in the use of aversive methods that actually cause more fallout, increased cortisol levels, and like in the case of my LE K9 a bite to your handler rendering your very expensive investment of a police K9 to be a liability that no department wants and no rescue in their right mind is going to touch. Further, those normal behaviors dogs engage in are anthropomorphized by people and attributed thanks to pseudoscience books and certain TV personalities, and those in the training industry who refuse to take a science-based CEU.
Here is a position statement you should read on this very topic : https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf
Second, If the dog is showing signs of guarding, or a lack of an out, in training this is prime time for the officer to be able to reassess the situation and determine how to redirect his canine partner so this is so proofed and generalized until the dog is working and its not an issue. We all know if it was a civilian punching that LE K9 officer or the handler punching another human officer there would be serious consequences. Yet you are publicly citing this form of physical abuse, because yes that is what occurred, physical abuse, was acceptable.
Your passive response citing this was normal and acceptable based on the dog's actions disregard the fact that the human is responsible for understanding how to navigate the dog's motivators and respect his partner. His behavior was no worse or better than that of the following: Trooper Sgt. Charles Jones of the North Carolina Highway Patrol, 2007.
Miami-Dade Police Sergeant, Allen Cockfield, 2006. Baltimore Police Department officer who kicked and threw his K9 officer for not releasing a toy for over 3 minutes with "trainers" around.
We all know LE K9's are trained with heavily outdated methods in the United States and I am not even going to dive into that pile of leaves right now. Instead, I am going to focus on the fact that this can be an opportunity for your department to do better. To address these issues vs citing they are the social norm in your industry because they really are not. To have proper training and support of your K9 Handlers and proper training methods for your dogs. I have tons of studies and more resources available but the main focus here is let's get some knowledge going. Let's stop this cycle of maltreatment of the department's assets and prevent a dog from being behaviorally retired. Because while I have space and the skills to take them in and turn them around; it should never get to that point.
So I encourage you to rethink your department's position, take this act of cruelty seriously, and access resources to get your staff at both ends of the leash better trained before putting them out into the field. Especially when that dog is to be in charge of protecting his handler's life while protecting and serving his municipality. Again, if it was human to human there would be an investigation and possible charges. Because the K9 is even more vulnerable than a human and this should be taken more seriously.
I am happy to share lots of peer-reviewed research and more information but even if it is just your department reaching out to these other fantastic k9 trainers I listed in this article I think you will find a wealth of amazing information and support will begin to flow your way.
For those of you who have not yet heard or seen what this is in reference to the original article can be seen here (TRIGGER WARNING ANIMAL ABUSE): https://abc7.com/vacaville-officer-punches-k-9-at-least-10-times-witness-says/9183299/