Dogs May Be Used to Make Schools Safer

Photo: AP/K9s4Kids, Josh Welch

Photo: AP/K9s4Kids, Josh Welch

In light of the tragic school shootings that have taken place across the country, one organization is sniffing out a new level of security: the use of specially trained gun and drug detection dogs.

K9s4Kids is a new non-profit branch of a K9s4Cops, a company that provides trained K9s to law enforcement agencies. K9s4Kids is seeking to create a safer learning environment for children by providing approved schools with a fully trained dog, free of charge.

Traditional training for police and protection dogs has leaned heavily towards aversive and punishment-based methods, including harsh corrections with choke or prong collars, as well as widespread use of shock collars. Breeds commonly used for protection and detection work, such as the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois, are among the most highly intelligent and sensitive dog breeds in the world. Using aversive methods on these dogs can, and often does, prove disastrous. Proponents of aversive methods will often disregard positive training as nothing more than doling out treats and lavishing dogs with praise. However, what many people don't realize is that positive does not equal permissive, and while treats and praise are used as motivators, discipline is a necessary piece of the training puzzle. It just doesn't come in the form of fear, pain, or harsh corrections.

Fortunately, there are forward-thinking handlers and trainers that are discovering the power of positive training on working dogs. A common myth about positive training is that it's only effective on small dogs and puppies with minor behavioral issues, when in fact it's just as effective on large, high-drive dogs. If more of the highly respected men and women who train and handle high-drive working dogs begin to use positive methods, I believe it will set an incredible example for dog owners and trainers everywhere.

It's my hope that a program like K9s4Kids takes advantage of the opportunities that positive training provides in teaching dogs effectively, as well as demonstrating to children how to properly handle and work with a dog. Kids tend to mirror what they see, and if kids consistently saw the dog protecting their school being jerked and yanked around, they will likely mirror these methods in their experiences with their own dogs. K9s4Kids has a wonderful opportunity to set a positive example for today's youth.

The program is only in the beginning stages, so questions remain about the safety and effectiveness of the program, as well as how to deal with issues like children with allergies or who are fearful of dogs. Read more.

What do you think about dogs adding safety and security to schools? Comment below. 


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  • Becky

    It's an AWESOME idea

  • http://facebook.com/dlindamck DeLinda

    As I noted on your post on Facebook - if the dogs are kept outdoors to prevent entry, I think it's a great idea. It would certainly solve the fear of dogs, or allergies, that kids may have, as they wouldn't be in close proximity. I noticed a few people suggesting arming the teachers, or posting an armed guard - I disagree with this as the idea is to keep guns OUT of the schools. Not only that, but teachers are working a very stressful job, and I wouldn't want to read in the paper one day about one going "postal" on their class.

    Positively trained dogs to roam the outside to keep the inside safe - sounds good to me. :)

  • Stephanie

    I am on the fence about these dogs being around children. One handler can't be responsible for the actions of every child coming near their dog. If you have a dual purpose trained dog then the risk is escalated for a bite to happen. I do see them as a great deterrent for any would-be shooters IF they see the dog/hander team. I think I would feel safer with certain staff to be specially trained with a fire arm, retro fitting bullet proof doors, and other safety measures.

    I consider myself a balanced trainer. While I primarily use +R to train, I do also use -N and +P when necessary. I own a Belgian Malinois and have training in bite sports. I would encourage Victoria to dig deeper into training with working dog trainers around the country. I think she would find that many train similarly to her approach, +R/clicker too.

  • Jerry I

    I have the same concerns that Victoria has. I know these types of dogs are going to get something a little more aversive than I would like, but the focus needs to be on +R training. I've seen too many police dogs that were not fit to be around the public, let a lone children.

    I don't think we can rely on the dogs alone though. Other safety measures need to be taken. Doors and security cameras at a minimum. I have no problem with teachers carrying weapons if they are required to attend special training courses and participate in life like events. Just because people know how to shoot a weapon etc, does not mean they have any clue about emotions and actions during an actual event.

  • Joanne Peters

    I agree with Stephanie - while the idea sounds lovely, i think the reality of it has too many shortcomings. Who is to say that a potential shooter will care about a dog? just shoot it! and the handler! or, they may not see the dog and gain entrance to the school. I hate the thought that we have to practically lock our youngsters inside the school...........
    We certainly need to be better in identifying those children with violent tendencies or mental problems and get them the help they need - away from the general population. Equality does not mean putting our children at risk.

  • Sean Theodore

    I think it's a great ideal. I'm also a trainer myself and I work with a lot of Protection and working dogs. I consider myself to be a balance trainer. What I don't like about Victoria Stilwell is that her information about police and protection dogs is outdated. Police and Working Dog Trainers do not train the same way they used too.. methods has radically change and trainers have more of a positive approach. Trainers still use corrections but not as often as before and I think she should be praising the police for what they do with these great dog's instead of downing there training techniques. Just Saying.

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