BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s not always easy to know if a dog is friendly, but a new training program by the National Sheriff’s Association is designed to help with that.

It shows the visual cues, from tail wagging to snarling. It also employs video scenarios projected in front of real deputies.

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The goal of the training is to reduce the contact between police and family dogs that sometimes lead to lethal force against the family pet.

“In the old days, it was taught dogs are property,” said John Thompson, deputy director of the National Sheriff’s Association. “If it was a threat, you had to neutralize that threat. Well, things have changed. Society’s changed, and dogs are now part of the family.”

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In the video scenarios, deputies are trained to react to dogs that may be a threat with non-lethal force. like mace, if possible. One big reason for that emphasis is the growing number of lawsuits over the police involved killings of family pets.

“To avoid some of the very high dollar civil settlements that have come from officers who were untrained in this system,” the training program’s developer James Crosby said.

In a recent Maryland suit, a jury found a dog that had been killed by an Anne Arundel County police officer was not a threat and never bit the officer as was originally claimed. The award to the owner was more than $1 million.

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