Benefits of Staff Training
Reports from businesses of issues regarding aggressive “fake” SDs in the public space are on the rise, yet few businesses appear either willing and/or to dedicate time or resources to educating their staff on how to respond. Though we believe strongly in the value of staff education, the law currently does not require that businesses provide such training for their employees. Though we understand and appreciate the logistic difficulties that education for all staff would create, we believe that the benefits in terms of improved safety for patrons and reduced liability for businesses will outweigh these challenges.
In April of this year we met with supervisors from three large indoor entertainment venues. They all reported similar issues, and noted that among the most pressing were:
- Public safety issues due to the presence of aggressive dogs
- Public health and sanitation code violations, particularly in dining areas
- A need to undertake screening to reduce the number of cases where untrained pet dogs are being brought into the public space
The assistance of the FSDS was requested to provide staff training, and also manage a data collection project designed to track the incidences reported and identify targeted areas for intervention. Data collection began in May of 2019. All three venues have agreed to track 10 key research questions, and report the data to the FSDS. Statistics are maintained and reported as aggregate data in order to protect the privacy of each venue.
Since the 2nd quarter statistical information gathering did not start until May, the statistics for this quarter were extrapolated to render them comparable for each quarter moving forward. This month we are able to report for the first time the comparison between the first two quarters of information gathering to understand how consistent screening and targeted interventions have impacted the incidents that these venues are experiencing.
Venues screen all SD teams that present at their location. Screening is accomplished by asking the two questions allowed under ADA law:
- Is this a SD required because of a disability?
- What work or tasks has the dog been individually trained to perform?
- 2nd quarter: 228 encounters
- 3rd quarter: 153 encounters
This represents an overall decrease of 32.9% in the number of incidents. Other significant findings include:
- 34% of teams screened were unable to answer the two ADA questions appropriately and businesses were able to prohibit them from entering
- From 2nd to 3rd quarter there was a 178% increase in the reported cases of dog aggression and a 124% increase in the incidents of disorderly handlers
It is important to note here that this reduction is from the time of data gathering forward. At the time of the initial meeting, however, it was reported that violations of public health and sanitation code resulting from dogs being dangled over food at buffets and dropping dog hair and saliva into the public food were occurring 2-3x per day per venue. At that time we recommended an immediate intervention to safeguard public food sources. Since that time, there have been zero such reported incidents at any facility. Thus, the overall reduction in incidents from time of meeting to time of report was far greater.
Based on our experience and the observations of trainers when in public, we believe that the “dog aggression” noted is most often due to one of two causes:
- Reactivity to other dogs – we observe first hand that barking, snarling and lunging often does not occur until an untrained dog observes another dog in public.
- Fear aggression – untrained dogs are not equipped to process and respond appropriately to the myriad sights and sounds of the public space and may react out of fear in unfamiliar situations when they feel threatened.
Reactivity results in legitimate teams becoming targets for attack in public. Fear aggression poses an equal threat to all members of the public who may be present when a situation arises. Screening out those teams that are not legally entitled to public access reduces the number of problems. The increase in disorderly handlers was reported to be due to arguments from individuals who did not meet criteria and were unable to answer the ADA questions being told that they were not permitted into the facility. Though this resulted in initial arguments, these were reportedly short-lived and the individuals did leave, taking their untrained pet dogs with them.
We strongly recommend training for all businesses. Putting together a proper education module is time consuming and time is money. The FSDS has put together training, and based on the numbers gathered it is apparent that the training has resulted in improvements. We provide Train the Trainer sessions, providing information to selected staff so that they may go back to their respective businesses and perpetuate the training at their location. This is the most cost effective means of ensuring that accurate and effective training occurs.
We recommend that all businesses begin to screen every team that enters their business. The two allowable questions under ADA law are:
- Is this a service dog required because of a disability?
- What work or tasks has the dog been trained to perform?
Under no circumstances should a business solicit information regarding the nature of a disability (ie: request diagnosis). For information on how to participate in training please contact our facility at: 602-870-2008
Advanced Class – congratulations to the advanced class on earning their canine safety certification this past month. All students have now also passed their Public Appropriateness Test. We remind readers that when you encounter one of our teams in public please approach from the front and if you wish to greet the dog, remember to ask permission of the handler first.
Beginner Class – our new beginner class will start on Saturday, January 4th from 1-4 p.m. Applications are now being accepted. A very limited number of seats are available. Please contact us at 602-870-2008 for more information.
The cold weather is approaching, and in some parts of the country has already arrived. Remember that dogs are susceptible to cold-related illness and must be protected. Remember the following:
- Provide thermal booties for your dog to protect their paws from frostbite
- Limit the amount of time your dog is allowed outdoors in cold weather
- If your dog is wet, bring them indoors and dry them off. A wet dog outdoors in cold temperatures can develop hypothermia.
- If you are visiting friends, bring a blanket or portable bedding for them to lay on so that they do not lay on a cold tile floor
Remember that if it is too cold outdoors for you, it is too cold outdoors for your dog.
Our sincere thanks to the following for their generous support this past month to our program.
- Valerie Schluter
- DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
- Petco Foundation