As an owner of a working dog, people often ask me, “Do you ever use Maximus on protection details?” I have often replied Maximus has gone to work with me before, but it has never been on a protection detail.
Since I am often employed as the agent in charge (AIC), you generally are assigned to the principal and the duties don’t lend themselves to be the K9 handler. You have a choice, either work the principal of work the K9, but rarely can you do both. However, that doesn’t mean there is not considerable opportunities for K9s and handlers in protective services.
Typically, these dogs fall into one or two categories. There are dogs that are single-purpose dogs, meaning they have one task they perform. While others are dual-purpose, meaning they are trained to perform a variety of tasks. The three biggest categories that they fall into are Apprehension, Detection and Search & Rescue.
Historically the most popular discipline of the protective K9 was intruder or suspect apprehension. Apprehension dogs are trained to bite and hold or subdue intruders or dangerous suspects. When they are deployed they are generally the first ones at risk as they are often the first ones to go hands on or should we say “mouth on” with a suspect or intruder. They often come from the herding breeds, such as the Belgian Malinois, German Shepherd Dogs, and Dutch Shepherds. However, there are low profile breeds like the Giant Schnauzer that also are more than capable of holding their own. What we often look for in the above breeds are intelligence, agility, strength, but most importantly stability. They need to have the ability to respond on command or recognize a hostile act in the absence of a command while having phenomenal temperament. Perhaps some of the most well-known protective services K9s are the Malinois’ that protect the First Family at the White House.
A dog’s sense of smell is 45 times greater than that of a human, and we have continued to leverage that gift and draw upon best practices from the military and law enforcement to augment private security, whether detecting drugs, explosives, or accelerants. Historically much of this detection work has been done on-lead, but as we go forward we continue to see more explosive K9s trained to work off-lead, minimizing danger to the handler, which also allows the handler to provide better coverage for the dog, team, or private protectees.
The latest in detection training dogs particularly when it comes to explosive detection are vapor wake dogs. These “vapor wake” K9s, developed by Auburn University after Richard Reid tried to smuggle a bomb onto a plane in his shoe in 2001, track “thermal plumes left behind in a person’s wake.” They don’t sniff people they sniff the air for bomb making residue vapors. When people move, they emit rising warm air that trails behind them. Under the right conditions, specially trained dogs can sniff this body heat for particles and theoretically detect a suicide bomber within a stadium of 50,000 people. However, our goal is to clearly identify them before they get into the stadium.
Search and Rescue
A large part of a working dogs life is searching for lost victims, whether it’s someone who has been kidnapped or a missing person who has gotten lost. In the case of search and rescue, dogs can be trained to find living victims and the remains of deceased humans. They are able to search through rubble after a devastating explosion like the World Trade Center, earthquakes, or other disasters like recently witnessed in Puerto Rico. They are able to cover miles and miles of area, whether forest or barren land, looking for survivors of a downed private plane. Another use for a Search & Rescue K9 in the private sector may be if a young child in the protective family may have wondered off on the residential grounds. As you can imagine, from a protective services standpoint, we often see Apprehension and Detection most frequently used, for if we are doing search and rescue and it pertains to our clients a whole lot of things have gone wrong in our protection strategy.
Whether we are focusing on risk mitigation or risk management, the first question we want to ask ourselves is what role do we want the K9 to play when it comes to enhancing the protective strategy? Will we look to embed the K9 into the daily team duties or will we contract out the services as needed often when we travel. Will they have a single purpose or dual purpose?
Examples of K9 deployment in in private security:
Residential homes, vacation homes, private vehicles, private airport-hangers, executive offices, mailroom, office auditoriums, board rooms, and anywhere large groups of people gather. I recently had a music client do a large open-air performance and there were four K9s deployed to do IED searches before and during the show. For those who may not be aware, dogs can cover an area way more effectively than any detection robot, particularly because of its athleticism.
Even in the private sector another benefit is to keep the home, or workplace free from drugs. If I have client who decides they want to have a party at their home and they want to insure it stays drug free, we can make all guests prior to entering the home walk past the private K9. If the K9 gets a positive alert, I can ask the guest, “if you have anything with you, that you would not want the police to see, please take it back to your vehicle. If a police K9 gets a positive alert, then the officer has to do his job, and someone has to go to jail. Thus, embarrassment for the guests and negative press for the client.
Explosive SearchesDogs are unconditionally loyal and will protect their family, handler, and clients to their own determent. Primarily, because they don’t recognize danger. However, because a dog will die to defend what they love, it does not mean we should unfairly put them at undue risk. Also, just because a person is a professional it also does not always mean they deploy their K9s under the most efficient or best conditions. If professional law enforcement officers make tactical errors, it only stands to reason, that private sector K9 handlers may make many of the same mistakes.
If you factor the K9 into the residential or office security plan, ask yourself how will you consider using the K9 and under what conditions?
- Perimeter Defense, Audible deterrent;
- Search for a potential intruder;
- Alert but don’t engage (in searching for a hidden intruder);
- Engage on contact;
Perimeter Defense – If the dog is deployed as part of the perimeter defense, I prefer them to patrol from the base of the dwelling or structure outward oriented as opposed to exterior fence inwardly focused. It reduces the need for the dog and the handlers having to often cover both their 12 and their 6. In an actual breach of the perimeter fence as we have seen multiple times at the White House it gives the K9 too much ground to cover to close the gap, as opposed when they are deployed at the base of the structure any breach of the perimeter fence has the intruder coming toward the K9 and shortens the K9’s reactionary gap and intercept capabilities.
Audible deterrent – while reviewing your security monitors from the command center you notice an intruder on the premises or outside of the dwelling. If your dog is trained to bark on command, you can instruct your dog to bark aggressively to try and deter the intruder from attempting to breach the residence or perimeter. Many intruders will often abandon the property as they would rather not have to deal with an aggressive dog, or risk detection by the security team who would be alerted to the dog barking and call 911 and get the authorities on the way.
Search for a potential Intruder – you and your client return to the residence and something looks a little out of place. At this point I would recommend you ease back out of your dwelling, get the client to a secure location, and alert the K9 handler to search the premises. In a search for intruder scenario, you deploy them with the ability to bite on deployment. I want them to bite and hold (seize by force).
Alert but don’t engage – in this situation I am searching with my dog but letting the dog lead. We are moving methodically, and I am taking advantage of cover or concealment as we search. I am encouraging them to search with their nose and not merely by sight, to locate a hidden suspect. Here you have a choice, do you want the dog to do a passive alert or active alert. In a passive alert, for example the dog locates a suspect hiding in a closet but sits or downs at the closet. You typically would consider a passive alert when you don’t want to let the suspect know you have located them. In an active alert once the dog located the suspect hiding in the closet they may bark or scratch at the door, depending on their training. There is no right or wrong way just different approaches. With an active alert since the suspect knows they have been located they may choose to surrender, or on the contrary some suspects when faced with apprehension, may choose to escalate the engagement.
Choosing to announce the presence of the dog is often a matter of preference. I prefer to keep the element of surprise on my side and not announce for the safety of myself and my dog. If they know they have a motivated K9, it may encourage the suspect to prepare to try to injure or kill the dog. If you do choose to announce the presence of the dog, you may call out to the hidden suspect something similar to the following:
1. “Come out with your hands up and you won’t be hurt.”
2. “If you don’t come out, and I have to send in the dog, when he finds you or enters the closest he is going to bite you!”
If you decide to announce before releasing your dog, silence your dog, before giving the announcement to surrender. This gives the potential suspect the opportunity to surrender without the use of force. It also gives you the opportunity to hear any actions by the suspect or non-crime related individuals who may be in the search vicinity. If we can avoid a confrontation all together that would be ideal. But remain vigilant because things can change in a nanosecond.
Sometimes when suspects are faced with the consequences of engagement by a motivated protection dog, it makes surrendering a more palatable ending. But also understand with a professional predator or career criminal with two strikes on their record, it may also motivate them to elevate their own level of force. So, if you are not fully prepared and trained for an escalated confrontation, backing out of the home and calling 911 and getting the authorities on the way from the beginning, is also another option.
Escort – In this scenario. You have found the suspect. You are choosing to move him or her to another location perhaps away from your client, or you have decided to search the suspect for possible weapons. With a well-trained dog, the dog is covering you, as you go hands on to conduct the search. The dog is acting as a second partner during the movement of the suspect.
In general, my preference is that once I draw my firearm on someone, unless for my safety or that of my client, I am going to hold them in place and not take my weapon off them until law enforcement arrives.
Deploying the K9 in Private Protective Services
By: Mark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS
Mark “Six” James is Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC. He is an internationally published author, keynote speaker, security consultant to educational institutions and frequent contributor to a number of print, broadcast and online media, and the author of a number of security, firearm and protection publications. Panther Protection Services is a full-service protection agency focusing on Risk and Crisis Mitigation, Protective Services, Self-Defense Training, and Firearm Instruction.