Look but Don’t Touch
It is a common but often overlooked courtesy to ask a handler before petting their working dog. These dogs are professionals and looks can be deceiving. I know plenty of cops, Marines, and soldiers who look like the guy next door but little do you know is that “guy next door” is a highly trained in special operations and takedown defense. In the same way a highly trained Marine, soldier, or policeman look forward to using what they have been taught, a dog looks forward to doing what they are trained to do.
Handlers who work with patrol certified working dogs know that there are a ton of dog and animal lovers out there. So when they are out in public they understand that their dog can draw attention. People are always approaching asking hundreds of questions and making lots of remarks such as “How old is your dog?” or “He looks like a dog I know” and one of my favorites “He doesn’t look so tough.”
You know what, it’s true. A lot of our dogs don’t look like they can harm a hamster. They have this big goofy grin with their tongue hanging out of the side or maybe their stature isn’t intimidating or sometimes they look soft cause they drop onto their backs and want a nice bellyrub. They can look so welcoming and adorable that people feel like they can run up to them and start wrestling with them like they do with Fido back home. Little do people know that in some of these dogs is a Kujo eager to be released.
Patrol certified dogs are dogs that not only have been bred to be able to attack, but they love doing it. In fact, if I could watch a patrol certified dog’s dream like a movie it would probably go along the lines of him bursting through a car window, jumping over a six foot wall, running through obstacles, and getting a glimpse of the frightened face of a criminal just before he lays his jaws into him.
It’s easy to stay away from the dogs that bark at anything and everything. But just like humans, it’s the silent ones you have to pay particular attention to. Those dogs are plotting, maybe even trying to lure you in, anything for a chance to get a bite. You know what I’m talking about when you see a dog faced in one direction but his eyes are focused in another.
I’ll never forget posting outside as security with Rex in front of a room President Bush was giving a speech in. A beautiful young woman approached and mentioned how much of a dog lover she is and asked if she could pet Rex. Although Rex was tolerant of being pet I rarely let anyone pet him while working because he was a very aggressive dog and I didn’t want the chance of an accidental bite happening. But she pleaded how much she wanted to pet him and so I told her it would be ok as long as she used one hand and just patted him slowly on his head. She obliged but after a few seconds she started using both hands to rub his ears. Bad move, Rex immediately locked down on one of her hands just to back her off and then let go. He didn’t break skin but he definitely made his point-back off! It all happened so quick but it is a reminder that these dogs are not to be treated like a dog next door.
Whether its a patrol dog, service dog, or any other kind of working dog just remember they are “working” not playing dogs. Always ask a handler before having any kind of contact with his dog. You never know, the dog just may want that belly rub after all.