“First Bite Syndrome”

syn·drome  – noun \ˈsin-ˌdrōm also -drəm\  1)  a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition   2) a set of concurrent things (as emotions or actions) that usually form an identifiable pattern

“First bite syndrome” for K9 handlers can be one of the most challenging and agonizing conditions for a new handler or a handler with a new dog to experience – anxiously waiting for their dog’s much anticipated “first bite” on the street.  Everyone unknowingly pressures the handler by continually asking “Has your dog gotten its first street bite?”  If your dog hasn’t gotten its first bite, do you believe your performance as a handler is being questioned?

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” -Saint Augustine  

The “first bite” is the street test that will determine if your dog has been properly prepared to physically encounter a suspect and bite as trained and commanded – or not – and the assessment and steps necessary for remediation or more training if not successful.  The first bite is often considered a rite of passage that marks a dog’s transition from an untested rookie to street dog.  For many, it’s actually the second or third street bite that determines the effectiveness and success of a police dog.

“Good things come to those who wait” is an English phrase that highlights the virtue of patience.

And, sometimes, a handler seriously suffering from “first bite syndrome” makes a wrong decision to deploy the dog because rational decision making is often clouded or impeded by these distractions and conditions combined with an eagerness to engage the suspect so the dog can attempt its first bite and evaluate accordingly.

“Patience is the best remedy for every trouble.” -Plautus

The proper (and legal) justification for the first bite is more important than the bite itself – and failing to follow policy in exchange for a questionable or ill-advised bite can get you in trouble.  You must make the right decision to send your dog for a bite based on the totality of the circumstances and your department policy – not the dog’s bite tally.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy

The first bite may occur tomorrow, it may occur next month. Eventually, it will occur – and you want the circumstances to be dictated by the suspect, not the syndrome.

Take care, be safe and don’t be in a hurry for the first bite…

Bill Lewis II

This “Reason” was originally shared on August 19, 2013