Humans have enlisted the help of canines for security and protection since the Middle Ages and in police units for over 100 years—the NYPD deployed its first canine unit, Patrol Squad 1, in 1908.
Fast-forward 115 years later, and canines are regular features in places like airports and schools and at major events like music concerts. Mark Bosque, a security consultant and owner of K9 X-Factor, has experienced firsthand how canines can help de-escalate a situation.
A few years ago, Bosque, who has 20 years of experience in event, entertainment, and corporate security, was checking up on an outdoor event when he noticed a disturbance at the front entrance. The crowd was getting physically aggressive with security and event management, who asked Bosque to call the police. Remembering his pet German Shepherd in the back of his SUV, Bosque took the canine out of the car and instructed him to bark at the crowd. The tactic worked—the horde calmed down within minutes.
That was the turning point for Bosque. He began studying the use of canines in security. In his research, he learned that businesses on the East Coast had started supplementing human security with canines, resulting in 80 to 90 percent of issues getting resolved effectively, yet peacefully. And that’s how K9 X-Factor, which places protection dogs with families, small businesses, and, increasingly, retailers, was born.
Ensuring Health and Safety
Before Bosque saw the applicability of canines in retail locations, he learned that East Coast hospitals were using them, which came as a surprise.
“I’m like, that’s kind of weird,” he said. “I thought hospitals were really this safe environment and everything, and it’s not that at all.”
Upon further research, Bosque discovered that these hospitals had brought canines into emergency rooms and other areas where things can turn volatile. Healthcare workers are five times more likely to experience workplace violence than employees in any other industry. This is due to a number of factors, such as criminals being treated at hospitals and medications sometimes causing adverse, violent reactions in patients. Once the dogs came into the picture, these hospitals experienced about a 70 percent drop in incidents, Bosque said.
“The dog acts as a psychological and physical deterrent,” said Bosque. “And in anything that I’ve done, if I can psychologically deescalate a situation, I think you’re going to nail it every time. It’s another added layer, but it’s a very effective layer because the perpetrator doesn’t know what the dog can and can’t do.”
The case for using canines to help prevent crime is multifaceted. Many would-be criminals don’t want to be attacked by a dog. Trained dogs can also help in quickly restraining a criminal. Canines also can detect firearms. But Bosque stresses that the dogs used as part of K9 X-Factor are not police canines. They have what he calls a “higher threshold”—meaning they are not bothered easily and won’t spring into action unless commanded to.
“They’re not ready coming out of that car and going, ‘Hey, I’ve got work to do,'” Bosque explained. “They are definitely one level lower than that in a sense that they’re not going to go after something unless they are authorized to go after it.”
The K9 X-Factor dogs undergo about four months of training on a seven-acre ranch in San Jose, California. The dogs must pass a series of tests, such as tolerating children or older customers petting them. Then, if a dog is going to be sold, the company brings in a handler or an agent and trains them for another two to three months. This is because the canines need to have a bond with their human counterpart to do what’s asked of them, Bosque said.
“I’ve got to vet the handler probably more than I have to vet the dog to a certain degree,” he said. “So any contract that I use with other agencies, they have to give their resume and then I have to interview. You’ve got to do all your checks, all your background on it . . . I have to do everything in my power to make sure that agent is trained.”
Bosque’s team goes out to check on each of his clients and their canines every three to six months. If a handler leaves, the client must return the dog to K9 X-Factor, which will re-train the animal with a new handler with whom it can form a bond.
Getting a Handle on Retail Crime
Bosque said his canines are at smaller retail locations right now, and that he is currently in discussions with a couple of chains, though he cannot disclose the details yet. But he has a model in mind.
He would station the canines at retail store entryways, and each would have a handler or agent to keep them on a six- or ten-foot leash to prevent them from roaming about the store. Larger stores with multiple entrances and exits might require more than one canine.
One caveat Bosque hasn’t yet worked out for retail clients: Signage alerting customers that they are subject to being searched by a dog upon entry or exit. While that’s for liability purposes on behalf of the business, Bosque stresses that “None of our dogs have ever had an unauthorized bite. If [the businesses] want even more insurance, we will put a muzzle on the dog,” he added.
Bosque said his dogs are meant to serve as a complement to other security tactics, including technological ones. He highlights that canines, like human agents, are active deterrents in that they can physically respond to a criminal or incident. And therein lies one of K9 X-Factor’s biggest hurdles—educating people on what their dogs can and can’t do, what they will and won’t do.
“This is a tried-and-true method,” he said of canines being used as part of a multi-pronged security approach. “I’m not really changing the game here. I’m just saying, ‘Hey, look at us, see what you think, and then make your own decisions.'”
If you’re interested in learning more about K9 X-Factor, contact Bosque through his website at https://k9xfactor.com/.