Port Phillip Animal Management and City Amenity officers and representatives from Bayside, Melbourne, Glen Eira, Whitehorse and Yarra Ranges Councils refreshed their dog handling skills under the expert guidance of Dog Force Australia instructors including Scooby, a superbly trained Belgian Malinois.
Port Phillip Animal Management Officer Elle, who helped organise the event, said it’s crucial for officers dealing with dogs to stay alert and up to date, especially as reported dog attacks are increasing (this may be due to more people becoming aware of the reporting process).
“It was great training together as we also built working relationships and swapped stories, ideas and experiences,” she said. “The feedback was that it was a really awesome experience and we are looking at hosting other training events.”
Officers chosen to demonstrate their dog whispering skills suited up in padded protective gear.
“When Scooby was told to attack me on command, you could feel the pressure of the bite through the padding but there was no pain. I have never been attacked on the job, my skills to avoid this have worked so far. But this training gave me a lot of insight into the force of a dog’s jaws and their strength. Scooby chased me and hit my shoulder but I managed to stay upright.” Scooby was showered with pats after the training when he was ‘off the clock’ for being a good boy.
The theory and practical work included:
– types of dog aggression that officers may be faced with in the community
– risk assessment / management for various scenarios
– handling techniques
– dog body language.
Elle said many dog attacks happen when pooches should have been on-leash. Signs that a dog may be feeling tense or aggressive can include snarling, teeth baring, lunging and raised ears and hackles.
“There’s so much to assess when approaching a dog. I scan the whole area to see how best to approach it. Some dogs just aren’t social, it’s not their fault.”
Elle believes muzzles can be a useful tool for dogs which may become stressed in public places.
“There is an unfair stigma about muzzles. I think some owners may discount their dog’s behaviour and think it will be OK. But if the worst happens, it’s too late.”
Training advice from vets and dog trainers/behaviouralists should also be sought if a dog’s behaviour raises red flags.
“At the end of the day, it’s about keeping us and the dog safe. We want them to be as happy as possible.”
This year there have been 129 reported dog attacks so far in Port Phillip.
Port Phillip officers are working on a dog attack reporting kit with tips on how to report or avoid a dog attack. Collecting as much information as you safely can, such as the offending dog owner’s name, their pet’s name, phone number or numberplate, assists investigations.