I’m writing this post as a result of a comment on my timeline regarding the death of a police dog. The comment read:
it just hurts me that dogs do not get to make the same conscious decision that a person makes when joining the force…….the conscious decision of knowing that they may lose their life in the line of duty. Is it fair for us as humans….to make that decision for them?
I feel this comment came from the heart, but the person may not be clear on the real “choice of a dog.” In order to avoid anthropomorphizing the dog, we have to understand that dogs are not able to make any choices based on the future. The dog lives in the here and now. As an example, dogs may mourn the loss of their master, but that mourning is soon forgotten if they end up in a good home. Dogs don’t think they might get killed by the car they are running in front of or that they might lose their life by fighting a dog that is 4 times their size. Dogs rely on humans to make decisions for them. It is part of our pact that we formed 100,000 years ago. We have a spiritual understanding that just works.
So then we must address the fact that people put dogs into a place that may hurt them, and the answer to this is 100% YES. We do that everyday. This is not limited to police dogs, detection dogs and such, but our very own pets. Pet dogs are at a greater risk of injury than these skilled working dogs. Pet dogs die of countless causes that are needless; car accidents, poisoning, fights and more. Yet that is par for the course. Working dogs are trained to perform a duty; this I can tell you from experience is a duty they love. Give any police dog the choice between laying on the couch watching Oprah and chasing a bad guy with a good bite at the end and ALL of these dogs will choose the bite. Dogs love to work and working dogs are living their dream 100%. I can’t say that for most pets. I truly believe that most pets are miserable when they live with people who try to treat them as if they were human. They don’t want to be dressed up in costumes and lay in your lap all day. They want to run and play rough, they want to bark and chase and dig – they’re dogs. So often humans take this away from the dog thinking they are giving the dog what he really wants, when in fact they are anthropomorphizing the dog.
Service dogs live a great life. They are trained for these skills, often since they are puppies. Almost every service dog trainer currently uses motivational or balanced training methods to teach the dogs their skills. Service dogs live with their handlers and spend more time with their humans than most pets who wait at home for their humans to return from work. If I had the choice, I’d come back as a police dog and take down some bad guys. Service dogs are living the meaning of being dogs, working for reward and always interacting with their human partners. They are practicing a skill that they see as a game with a huge reward at the end. They are taught the skills they need and they are dogs that exemplify what a dog is; a being that hunts, stalks, chases and bites for its reward. You can extrapolate that into any part of service dogs from scent detection to protection, there is still the same core foundation to what they do; they seek, find and get rewarded. This is the same thing the wolf does. He smells the rabbit, sees the rabbit, stalks him, chases him, bites him and eats him.
If you really love dogs you will understand that service dogs are balanced and very happy dogs, just like the dog(s) you love –probably more so. If your dog could talk he’d probably tell you that he’d rather be a police or detection dog.
So, we may feel sorry for the loss of a police dog that is killed in the line of duty, but we must appreciate fully that this dog lost his life while he was doing what he loved. No dog was ever “forced” to go chase a bad guy, they run in 100% on their own. My heart goes out to any dog that loses life or limb in service, but I know that they love their work and do it from the heart.