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Canines and Gunfire

In the United States, we just celebrated our 237th birthday.  I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday.  Every year we hear on the news for people to take precautionary measures with their pets due to the fireworks.  That is very understandable; pets can get startled by the loud explosions because they haven’t been exposed to them properly or they may even have very sensitive ears.  That got me thinking, what have you done to expose your canine partner for loud noises, whether they be fireworks, gun shots, flash bangs, etc.?

In many areas around the country, fireworks are reserved for the 4th of July, but in other areas like where I live in Pennsylvania, I think they are over used to celebrate anything and everything.  Due to this, my personal German Shepherd is very use to the loud explosions and could careless, usually laying down and going to sleep.  He is allowed to do this because he isn’t a working canine.  When it comes to our working canines, they must be exposed to all sorts of environments, terrains and loud noises. 

Typically during initial canine training, the canine is exposed to gun fire to get them familiar and use to it, so they don’t want to go running away from it.  If they can’t handle the sound of gun fire, they aren’t much good to us.  That exposure to gun fire can come in different forms.  I’ve seen and heard of trainers only using little .22 caliber starter pistols.  Is that sufficient, I don’t think so.  That is what we should be starting out with, and slowly increasing the caliber size, and should include exposure to shotgun and rifle firing.  If your agency uses other devices like 37mm gas guns, flash bangs, etc., then they should get exposure to those as well, but not just during initial training.  All these things should be included during on-going in-service training. 

When you go to the shooting range to practice and hone your shooting skills, do you bring your canine partner along?  If not, why not?  That is a great opportunity to maintain the familiarization with gun fire.  In my opinion, the exposure to gun fire is critical, no matter what size agency you are with, or how much gun fire goes on in your area.  Typically, when you hear gun shots, they are several blocks or more away.  Probably not even close enough to startle the common house pet.  But what happens when there happens to be a police involved shooting?  Those gun shots could be a matter of a few feet from the canine, especially if it is the handler that is shooting.  Larger agencies I’m sure will deal with these situations more, so the canines are exposed to it more as well.  What about the small agency that hasn’t had a shooting in years, and then it happens?  If that canine hasn’t been kept familiar with the sound of gun shots in close proximity, they may shutdown.  We like to think that our very expensive and highly trained canines won’t shutdown, but that is a possibility in situations like this.  Do your due diligence and keep your canine familiarized with the sound of gun fire.

I mentioned the 37mm gas guns and flash bangs.  Does your agency use them, or will you be around them due to assisting neighboring agencies?  If so, then you should train with them just as you would firearms.  It has been awhile since I have used a 37mm gas gun, but from what I remember, they aren’t real loud.  Your canine should be familiarized with not just the sound of it, but what comes out of it.  Are they being used for projectiles or CS gas?  When it comes to CS gas, it could be a muzzle blast, short range or long range.  If it is used for CS gas, then of course your canine should be exposed to it, and receive ongoing exposure during training.  Flash bangs are another device that we should get familiar with, if you will be doing an operations with them involved.  When a flash bang is deployed, we pull the pin, toss it into the area and either cover our eyes or turn away so we aren’t blinded by the intense flash of light, and maybe plug your ears if not wearing hearing protection.  You don’t want to forget about your canine partner, they can be temporarily blinded just like we can.  In critical situations that require the use of flash bangs, you don’t need your canine partner being taken out of the game simply because you didn’t protect their eyes and/or ears.  It can be as simple as cupping both hands over their eyes and ears. 

As police, we have many tools in our tool bag to utilize to combat crime.  Besides the tools already mentioned, if any of the tools make a loud noise, then you should include it into your training program and continually train with it. 

Stay Safe!