The man is on the ground. The dog grabs him by the leg and won't let go, despite the efforts of the security guard on the other end of the leash. The scene took place on Saturday evening, near Luxembourg city’s railway station, where G4S agents were patrolling, commissioned by the city to reinforce security in the area.
These images provoked numerous reactions online and in the political sphere. Luxembourg City’s Council decided to communicate via a press conference organised on Monday at 5pm.
Gérard Mullenders, head of the Belgian dog club Les Dragons de Latour specialising in obedience, who has been in charge of and trained dog handlers for the Walloon police for 35 years, is an authority in the field. He viewed the video on Paperjam’s request. "He is clearly not in control of his dog," says Mullenders. For him, the G4S officer could have stopped the canine by pinching his hindquarters. "The more you pull on the leash, the tighter the dog's grip,” adds Mullenders. "Because he feels that there is someone behind him, that his handler is supporting him, and he feels stronger."
The basics of a good training
Mullenders, an experienced police officer, who has collaborated with his Luxembourg counterparts on several occasions, regrets a lack of training for private security guards and their dogs, a problem that affects both Belgium and Luxembourg.
In Belgium, the training process within the police is drastic and starts with the recruitment of the dog. The canine must be around 18 months old and has to pass a test to assess whether it is sociable, not aggressive and not afraid of being shot at. These are the mandatory criteria for the dog to be retained. Then, a good training for the animal means eight hours a day in the course of one week. This is faster than the training of a drug detection dog, which takes "three to four months".
During this training, the dog is taught, among other things, to stop the attack, i.e. to stop the attack when requested, even if the target is only a few metres away. Even if he has already caught the person with his mouth, "by shouting his name once, he must let go of the person". But the dog also undergoes basic obedience exercises such as "sit and down", commands designed to "give him courage", even in a building with a slippery floor and loud music, for example. In order to not lose his skills, the dog must return "at least once a month" to the dog club to update his training, explains Gérard Mullenders.
The more you pull on the leash, the tighter the dog's grip.
The police handler must also learn the basics of working with his intervention dog. “He would be trained by coming from 9am to 4pm every day for a week", says Gérard Mullenders.
Of course, you can't control the animal 100%. "You may have to shout twice before it lets go," he says. Special circumstances can also make the situation worse. "The dog doesn't like drunk people, because they don't have a confident stance. If he gets kicked that will overexcite him," he says. Even if, in the end, "the handler must be able to get the dog to let go" in all circumstances.
The officer in question has a Belgian professional aptitude
So much for the Belgian police and the analysis of a professional dog handler on the right training to have before being able to patrol.
In Luxembourg "there is no specific legislation", explains Laurent Jossart, CEO of G4S. The company therefore decided that its agents who work with a dog should have completed a validated training course in one of the member states of the European Union. Their dogs must have a certificate of sociability and aptitude, be trained in self-defence techniques, train regularly (about once a week) in a dog club, and be vaccinated against rabies. It should be noted that the agent and his dog are recruited together. A handler at G4S checks that all the conditions are met.
This was the case for the agent who was holding the dog during last weekend's incident, says Jossart. He has a "professional aptitude as a security dog agent", issued in Belgium. He has undergone a total of 127 hours of training, but not specific to the profession of dog handler.
The number of hours needed to obtain the dog handler certificate varies from country to country, says Jossart. For example, the lifelong-learning website in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg lists a 10-day training course.
A state of overexcitement
So how do you explain the fact that the agent did not control the animal? "Our officers were attacked several times, and it lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. The dog was in a state of overexcitement.” This explains why the muzzle was removed. The attacker was seized by "his trousers, and not directly by the leg" and for a period "between 15 and 20 seconds", the time which it took the dog took to react to the orders and let go. Without being able to provide information regarding the person's condition, Jossart indicates that he was quickly discharged from the emergency room. "Unfortunately, in the video, we only see the part that is against us. I hope that with the judicial investigation, we will have more elements".
In the video, you can only see the part against us
When asked about the training of its dog handlers, the Grand Ducal police referred us to their website. It only indicates that the canine group is composed of 18 handlers and 17 dogs, mainly Malinois Shepherds, placed at the disposal of the police officer by the Police and living in the family environment of their handler. The latter is part of the Guard and Operational Support Unit (UGAO).
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.