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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
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A Blog About Dogs

Some ruminations on canines—K-9 units and otherwise—and the job.

October 25, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

Photo: Dean Scoville
Photo: Dean Scoville

The nexus between the canine and our profession takes many forms, both colloquially and practically. Trainees are referred to as "puppies," and aggressive cops are characterized as "hot dogs." Real dogs also play a major role in modern law enforcement. The K-9 unit has long proven itself to be a criminal's worst nightmare, and there are no less than seven different types of search dogs available to law enforcement.

So you would think that given their relative worth canines would get a greater measure of respect from cops.

But that hasn't stopped some bozo with a badge from giving bars of chocolate to a police K-9 and leaving its handlers to clean up the aftermath left in their patrol units, a practice more cruel than possibly intended, given the dangers a Hershey bar can pose for a dog.

Of course, I have also known of situations where K-9s didn't exactly endear themselves to the profession's ranks, proving to be equally capable of biting a uniformed cop as a bad guy, and every bit as willing. Still, I can think of no other less-lethal tool in law enforcement's arsenal that criminals are more terrified of, or that will find their likes curled up and whimpering in the aftermath of their deployment and renouncing any and all fidelities to the ASPCA.

Aside from being deservedly bit as a child—like Sylvester the Cat, I was teasing a specimen whose length of tether I'd disastrously underestimated—I have had only one representative of the species come close to extracting some skin out of me.

It was while I was on patrol. I had just opened up a back screen door in preparation of stepping into a backyard during a residential search when I paused and turned in response to a fellow deputy's question of me. Suddenly I felt a strong tug of my left leg and looked down to find a pit bull attached to my lower pants leg. As I did not recall having seen this fashion accessory earlier that day and the nature of my enterprise meant that my sidearm was already out, I decided to relieve myself of it. But as I aimed the barrel of my revolver at the dog's head I also took note that while its head was on this side of the screen door, its body was on the other. By applying pressure to the screen door I allowed the dog to decide whether or not to release its 235-psi bite volitionally, or ballistically. Fortunately for both of us, it let go.

I know I will probably get hate mail for saying so, but I have to admit to an immense dislike of pit bulls as a rule (I may not be alone in my bias. Google "officer shot pit bull" sometime). Still, on those infrequent occasions when I do hear of a pit bull doing something good I file it away. There is no inconsistency to my posture: I have always said that I like to have my prejudices shaken to their core.

That is not to say that for one second I blame those officers that have had to fire on man’s best friend. While on duty I jumped over many a fence or somehow otherwise found myself in somebody's backyard confronted by a barking representative of the species that would aggressively approach. And I've had to show many of them the barrel of my gun. I don't know if it was the absence of fear or the perceived willingness on my part to do whatever was necessary but each and every time the dogs hit the brakes and reconsidered their posture. Of course, none of these dogs were pit bulls.

As a result, I have been spared the misfortune of having to shoot a dog although there was one time where I wish I could have euthanized a Labrador that had been eviscerated by a pit bull. Had I been in a rural area instead of a residential driveway, I would have.

While the image of that dying dog is one I would like to forget, there is a dog that I would like to have seen a second time. It's the one that introduced itself to Steve Remige and I one morning as we were returning to the station from an early morning shift.

Remige, who would later become President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, was driving and I was bookman. This allowed me the optimal viewpoint to watch as a pit bull charged our car and ran headlong into my passenger side door.

Having left a sizable dent in the door, the dog simply made a U-turn before looking back with a "f**k you" smirk and disappearing. To this day I am not sure if the watch sergeant bought our story but for once it was the truth. As it stands, we still fared better than this guy.

I suspect that there is a reason why we don't see many pit bulls as police dogs. Perhaps it's because their shorter snouts makes their sniffers less dependable, although I suspect it has more to do with their temperament. If that latter criteria is the trump card, it's a small wonder that the police K-9 field is so surfeit with Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds, also both very temperamental animals. Perhaps a K-9 handler will explain this to me.

In any event, one might reasonably wonder how many police officers' lives and those of others have been saved by these our furry brethren in blue that have repeatedly proven themselves in everything from suspect searches to 9/11 rescue efforts–often, at the expense of their own lives.

And let it be known that, on the whole, I love dogs and suspect that most officers do, too. Here's a pic of my latest.

In closing, I hope the next time you see a police pooch you'll give him a pat of the back.

If he'll let you.


PHOTOS: Police Dogs

Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Frank @ 10/25/2012 4:40 PM

Dean nice story! I have a warm spot in my heart for all GSD's. I'm presently on my second GSD from Harrison K9, Aiken, SC. The breed is too smart and very devoted. My GSD loves to ride in cars. I recall years ago the breeds that got the Bad Dog Award was Dobermans and German Shepards. Now it the Rotty's and Pit Bulls. The Pits, I do not trust and always have my eyes trained on that breed. Hope you have many good years with your new companion.

chuck b @ 10/25/2012 5:15 PM

I was attacked by a pit on 09-25-12 while walking my shepard. Unfortunately i went to shoot the pit and ended up striking my own dog. Thankfully she is going to be ok, but i will NEVER EVER look at a pit the same again. GOD Bless you k-9's and may you keep your handlers safe

Dean Scoville @ 10/25/2012 11:11 PM

Frank, Thanks for the kind wishes. I hope so, too. @Chuck: I'm glad that your dog is on the mend. That's a heartbreaker :(

wes crume @ 10/26/2012 6:49 AM

Plain and simple....Malinois and Shepherds are the BEST in K9 work.....trainability....stead fastness, dependability, loyalty, able to do the job required......

mike @ 10/26/2012 7:45 AM

First Off,Not All Pits Are Bad/Dangerous!I'm Retired Off The Job (28Yrs.) And Had A Healthy Respect For All dogs. I Always Knew If I Went Over a Fence And There Was a Dog On The Other side I Knew I Was On Their Turf/property And Took That In To Account That They Are Just Minding Their home. Any dog Can Be A Biter, It all Depends How You Treat Them! Oh By The Way ,I Own A Pit And have Signs Telling Anyone/Everyone That She Is Friendly And If You Tried To Do Her Harm I Really Don't Who I'm Going To Be The Vicious One!

Marco @ 10/26/2012 1:39 PM

As a former Military Working Dog and Retired Police K-9 handler, I must admit my strong preference for German Shepherds. Smart, brave, adaptable, and able to think on their own, is what I think makes them the preferred K-9, along with the cousin the Malinois. Over the past few years I have gained an affinity for the pit bull. Never met one on the job that gave me a hard time. But mostly, my girl friend as an Animal Control Officer, who has dealt with hundreds of the misunderstood breed, will tell you how loving and wonderful they are. Also many dogs referred to as pit bulls aren't. BTW, if you absolutely have to shoot a pitty or rotty, do NOT shoot them in the head. Most rounds will bounce off, and just piss them off.

Nichole @ 10/29/2012 3:36 AM

I am a firm believer that animals don't do anything unprovoked, unless sick or ravaged with rabies. If you get attacked in a yard or on a sidewalk, it's because you were in their area. If you get attacked because you were petting one, then they didn't want to be petted. Or they don't like cars, or thunder, or they were scared... there are dozens of reasons.

It goes the same as humans. Just because we think we're superior in every way, doesn't make us so. So a normal human being one day gets up and decides to do some smack, even though he's never done it before, or a mother decides to kill her child, or a teen decides to take a gun to school. We're supposed to be the rational thinking, able to reason species, and at times we're no better behaved then a provoked animal.

My in-laws have a pit, and she is the sweetest, most well behaved shelter dog (previously abused, no less) I've ever met. Loves to run that big, rock hard skull into your shins, then lick your hands, shoes, pants, purse... anything she can get her slimy tongue on. That being said, I also have a two year old, who spends some time around said dog. I trust the dog more than I trust my daughter. I can be fairly certain, after watching them interact, that the dog would never attack my daughter unless my daughter intentionally hurt her. I could see that she might get nipped while playing with the dogs toys, but again, it's not on purpose.

It sickens my heart when breeds get a bad rap because of poor training or unfortunate circumstances, but then others are ignored. I know someone who's son got mauled by a golden retriever... that one didn't make the papers, go figure.

MartyB @ 10/29/2012 12:07 PM

Dean, once again a great article. We all love our dogs, regardless of their breed, size, or dispositions (good, bad, or otherwise)

Dean.Scoville @ 10/29/2012 12:53 PM

Greatly appreciated, Marty. Stay safe there in Kern, and have a Happy Halloween.

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