Eliminating the Find-and-Bite Label

by Bill Lewis II

Do you use the find-and-bite label to describe your police dog?  Do you use the find-and-bite term to describe your deployments?  If so, I’m going to make a bold suggestion you review your “police K9 glossary” and consider eliminating “find-and-bite” as a term or label from the glossary and your vocabulary.  

I’ve been thinking about this suggestion for a time before “police reform” recently became very prevalent and I’ve contemplated much more about it since.  If eliminating one term could potentially provide you with an advantage, should you not consider it?

Here’s a news flash; The majority of work being done by police dogs in patrol is not find-and-bite related.  Check your stats.  Does your find-and-bite dog bite every time it finds someone?  What’s your traditional bite ratio?  If it’s 50% or less, most of your work doesn’t result in a bite.  

When your find-and-bite dog locates an inaccessible suspect, what does it normally do?  I bet you’ve been training your dog to “find and bark” when it searches for and locates an inaccessible suspect.  Your “find-and-bite dog” becomes a “guard-and-bark dog” when it locates someone it can’t bite.  I’ll also bet “find-and-bite” can’t be found written in your policy, operational manual, or your training documentation.  So, why do you continue to use a term that does not accurately describe most missions?

I’ve read K9 policies that state the patrol dog will primarily be used as a locating tool.  Your deployment statistics will more than likely support this policy.  

I’ve read K9 policies that state the patrol dog may be used to locate and apprehend – and should be considered two separate objectives.  Once again, your stats (and your reports) will clarify the outcome of a deployment as well as defend against allegations that your dogs always bite when they find suspects.

Your primary mission during most deployments is to locate a suspect.  After you locate a suspect, you then consider all options to effect an arrest should a suspect not surrender if you have not already done so.  Sometimes, the discovery of an accessible suspect may result in an immediate bite, but that probability and justification should have already been factored into the deployment decision based on the environment and the totality of the circumstances.  

If we eliminate this term, won’t it appear as if we are trying to hide something?  No, you should consider eliminating the term because it does not accurately represent what most of you are intending to accomplish during your deployments. 

By the way, I also recommend not using find-and-bark, bark-and-hold, and guard-and-bark as deployment terms or labels for police dogs.

What does your K9 announcement say?  “If the police dog finds you, he will bite you” and you know that is not necessarily true in most cases.  “If the police dog finds you, he may bite you” is an announcement to consider.

You might be thinking about an alternate term for find-and-bite.  Is a term necessary?  “Handler control” is occasionally used by some as an alternative and the substitution is acceptable, but that term should apply to all police dogs, including find-and-bark or guard-and-bark dogs.  If a term or label is necessary, here’s two suggestions:  patrol dog or search-and-find. [“Search-and-find” label was added to this article in September 2022.]

While I’m on the topic of eliminating terms from your glossary, you may also consider scratching “apprehension dog” if you use this term to describe your patrol dog.  Yes, your patrol dogs may bite or physically assist (with a bite) in the apprehension of a suspect, but that is not usually their primary or solo function per agency policy and statistical data.  Recommendation: patrol dog.

As you well know, staunch critics of police dog programs and those trying nowadays to eliminate or severely restrict the use of police dogs are actively advocating all deployments are intended for and will result in bites with serious injuries.  These people do not share deployment records, statistics, and extent of injuries that contradict their views and they do not consider the totality of the circumstances of a deployment when pitching their opinions.  

Like so many other things we do, habits and the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality influence our decisions and can often negatively affect what we do and what we say.  We must take a little time periodically to seriously evaluate and discuss our practices, terms, and definitions to ensure we stay current with the ever-changing trends, publicity, and case law related to police dogs and K9 programs.  If you practice “think before you speak” you might consider the negative impacts if you still refer to your dog as find-and-bite. 

In closing, I’m not proposing a change to your deployment strategies or your training – rather, I’m suggesting a change to your mindset and vocabulary to better adapt to the expectations of today’s law enforcement regarding police dogs to best prepare for the future. 

Bill Lewis II © May 2021

This article was published in the United States Police Canine Association’s “Canine Courier” (Summer 2021) and posted online at TacticalK9USA.com on August 2, 2021.