Law Enforcement Dog Encounters Training (LEDET) Curriculum

The National Sheriffs' Association has created a training curriculum on handling dog encounters thanks to funding from the COPS Office.



The training curriculum is intended to provide 8 hours of coursework, separated into ten individual modules. The modules cover function dog behavior, recognizing signals, understanding mission purpose and strategy, situational awareness, keys to a safe encounter, process and tactics, using deadly force, and reasonability.

News outlets are chockfull of stories about lethal encounters between law enforcement officers and dogs. Each law enforcement narrative that accompanies these news stories uses the same buzzwords – the dog was “aggressive” or “vicious” or “charged” officers, but most stories are also accompanied by owner testimony that the dog was friendly or gentle. Accordingly, as the stories hit social media and spread throughout the community, many people are upset and enraged by what they perceive as law enforcement’s callous disregard for the lives of pets.

Many of these lethal encounters with dogs – and the subsequent community relations nightmares for the involved agencies - are preventable. This is evidenced by the increasing number of positive news stories about law enforcement officers trained in responding to dogs and putting that training into action, resulting in non-lethal encounters.

The Law Enforcement Dog Encounter Training (LEDET) Program is an eight-hour, facilitator-led course designed to teach law enforcement officers how to interact with dogs in their daily duties with the intention of keeping officers, dogs, and the general public safe while completing the law enforcement mission of protecting and serving efficiently and effectively.

Students completing LEDET will learn about how the public perceives lethal encounters with dogs and the effect that such incidents have on the community-law enforcement bond of trust. They will gain a better understanding of qualified immunity and legal responsibility as those concepts apply to these encounters.

Additionally, students will learn why dogs bite, how dogs signal to each other and to humans, and how the students can use their new understanding of dog “language” to better assess a dog’s potential reactions. Students will also learn how to use their own body positioning and posture to communicate calming and de-escalation signals to a dog.

Finally, LEDET students will learn a set of best practices for making quick but educated decisions regarding the use of deadly force. This is done through examining factors in the prioritization of calls, properly classifying a call’s urgency, and applying the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop and SCAN assessment to their specific situations. Students will then look at how use-of-force decision-making applies to situations involving dogs and learn how to apply pre-existing knowledge about use-of-force and reasonability to an encounter with a dog.

The goal of LEDET is not to turn law enforcement officers into dog-behavior experts, but rather to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to safely handle on-duty encounters with dogs in their communities in an effort to reduce the number of lethal encounters and costly lawsuits.


Module 1: Introduction 

Module 2: Functional Dog Behavior: Why Do Dogs Bite?

Module 3: Dog 1010: Recognizing Signals

Module 4: Mission, Purpose, and Strategy

Module 5: Situational Awareness

Module 6: Keys to a Safe Encounter

Module 7: Less- and Non-Lethal Tools

Module 8: Potential Effects of the Use of Force

Module 9: Use of Deadly Force

Module 10: Reasonability

Module 11: Overview and Test

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This project was supported by cooperative agreement 2016-CK-WX-K032, awarded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.