Bark and Hold Verses Bite and Hold

by Terry Fleck

November 2001 update on the training philosophy of “bark and hold” versus “bite and hold”:

Prior to August of 2000, no United States canine association, national law enforcement association, state law enforcement or state canine standard took a stance on recommending a training philosophy of “bark and hold” over “bite and hold”. The three largest United States canine associations, United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) and National Police Canine Association (NPCA) did not recommended either philosophy. No state Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) recommended one philosophy over the other.

In August 2000, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) published their “Law Enforcement Canine Model Policy”. This was the first time in the history of police canine where a law enforcement association recommended a training philosophy of “bark and hold”. Their model policy stated “Training and deployment of police canines shall employ the “guard and bark” rather than the “guard and hold” method”. IACP has re-issued this model policy in September 2001. IACP still remains the only law enforcement association that has recommended a training philosophy.

The United States Federal Court of Appeals has addressed the “bite and hold” philosophy of training. As of 1998, the latest court that addressed this issue held that the “bite and hold” philosophy of training is constitutional. One court established in 1989 that in the “bite and hold” method of training, the handler must have complete control over the actions of his dog. With such control the handler can recall and restrain the dog before a bite occurs. Alternately, the handler can quickly remove the dog from an apprehended suspect (handler control).

In October 2001, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division, reviewed the Cincinnati, Ohio Police Department (CPD). During that process, they also reviewed Cincinnati’s Canine Unit. Their written recommendations to CPD are as follows:

“The CPD should adopt a “find and bark” policy and eliminate undefined terms from its canine policy. It should also provide more guidance to its officers regarding when canines are to be deployed. Moreover, we recommend that CPD track and monitor the frequency with which its canines bite civilians when making apprehensions.”The CPD canine policy should require verbal warnings before releasing a canine.

In general, canine deployment for purposes of apprehending a person should be limited to searches for serious felons or to cases where a subject is armed or has potential to use force or cause harm to the officer, the subject or others.

CPD should document deployments and apprehensions to determine a bite ratio. Bite ratios enable a police department to assess its canine unit and individual canine teams.

CPD should provide standardized training in canine handling procedures to all supervisors deploying canines.

The United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) and the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) expressed several concerns with the IACP model policy in a meeting with IACP in August 2001. The IACP choose to ignore those concerns.


Terry Fleck

Author, Canine Legal Update and Opinions