“Failure to train for distractions”

Can you name a significant difference between a golfer preparing to make a putt and a basketball player preparing for a free throw?  Distractions.  One insists upon “quiet, please” to proceed while the other faces a throng of people yelling, screaming and waving noodle-like apparatuses designed to distract, intimidate and disrupt their attempt.

Can you name a significant difference between a tennis player preparing to return a serve and a baseball player in the batter’s box?  Distractions.  One insists upon “quiet, please” to face a tennis ball that may travel at speeds exceeding 90 MPH while the other has a backdrop of opposing fans yelling and screaming to distract as a baseball is hurled in their direction exceeding 90 MPH.

Can you name a significant difference between the K9 handler who will not deploy or has problems when deploying their police dog into certain dynamic situations (real world or scenario-based exercises) because of bystanders present, other officers on scene and/or other distractions and the K9 handler who will confidently do so and successfully with the same circumstances present because it must be done?  Proper training.

I’ve been present at training sessions where dogs aren’t able to work because they become distracted while other handlers in the background are a little loud while they talk and laugh or maybe they’re within view of the search area.  I’ve conducted training and certifications where dogs can’t heel off leash during obedience as required because a decoy in a bite suit is wandering around or plainly visible nearby.

I’m currently defending a handler [in 2014] for an unintentional bite on a bystander during a deployment.  During the deposition, the Plaintiff’s attorney questioned the handler about training with respect to distractions and bystanders – and the handler admitted they did not train for deploying with distractions or the presence of bystanders.

In police work, we should be preparing and training for every conceivable distraction that may occur.  Yes, there are times when it might not be safe nor appropriate to deploy the dog based on certain distractions and their proximity to the work area – but there will be other times when it will be necessary to do so.  So, you need to have the confidence that your dog will be successful based on your training.

Police work – including K9 – is about dealing with distractions and our ability to work with and through them.  We are the basketball players preparing for a free throw in a tight game situation with distractions.  We are the baseball batters digging in for the fast pitch with a two strike count and distractions.

The etiquette for golfers and tennis players – and their fans – requires “No Disturbance or Distraction” during play.  “Quiet, please, I’m preparing to deploy my police dog” is not a realistic expectation.  Your training should address it and it should keep you out of trouble by doing so.

Take care, be safe and train for distractions…

Bill Lewis II 

This “Reason” was originally shared on July 7, 2014

“Trouble” isn’t always related to incidents or predicaments that directly result in lawsuits, claims or discipline. Often times, our actions or inactions that are missed, deliberately overlooked or downplayed may lead to nothing or can later lead to mistakes or bad incidents with minimal to serious repercussions.  A reason we get in trouble can be minor or simple at first glance – or even serious – but a combination of these factors can often have disastrous consequences.   

These “reasons” are provided periodically as a collection in-progress based on actual incidents and real attitudes as well as feedback received at HITS, the CNCA Training Institute, and the “Canine Liability 360” classes.  As Gordon Graham says, “We haven’t found new ways to get in trouble.” So, as the list progresses, you may or may not read something familiar to you that you have personally experienced or seen others encounter. If you encountered or heard about it, did you learn from it?