Police K-9: A Partner Like No Other

Police K-9

Canines are a vital part of police work, and they, like their two-legged partners, must attend a basic police academy designed especially for dogs. Police dogs must be certified before they’re allow to work the streets with their handlers.

K-9 training is extremely intensive, and during the time at the academy the animals and their human partners achieve a close bond. The two gradually begin to work together as one, and simultaneously the animals become very loyal to their handlers. They’ll stop at nothing, other than their handler’s commands, to achieve their objective.

It is a must that the handler establish himself/herself as the dominate “dog” in their pack of two. There should be no doubt as to which of the two is boss. How handlers establish their dominance is a fun, yet… You know, I believe I’ll save that bit of information for another day.

Police dogs, like all working canines, love to please their human partners. Sure, they enjoy a favorite toy, food, water, and a warm place to sleep, but it’s the quality time with their handlers that they want most of all.

It’s a unique experience to have a canine partner. I had two, a huge rottweiler and black lab. The training is extremely tough for a handler, but it’s like 13 weeks at Disneyland for the dogs. Yes, that’s 13 weeks per dog.

My dogs and I attended the Virginia State Police academy. Training requirements vary for other departments.

During the time my canine partners and I were in basic training, there was quite a bit of running (lots of running) jumping, rolling in the grass (officers and dogs together), tug of war, swimming, climbing, running, running, running, and more running. Play, play, play, play, play.  It’s all fun for the dogs. It’s all grueling work for the handlers. Lots of work. And lots of running. Did I mention the running?

The academy was a lot of hard, tough work (you’d think I’d had more than my fair share of running during my first basic academy, but noooo…. I wanted to be a canine officer).

It didn’t take the troopers long to realize the canine training was sort of like 13 weeks at Chuck E. Cheese for the dogs. They loved it!

It was a real treat to watch the dogs truly enjoying every minute of every day. They were the stars of the show. We, on the other hand, were on the “dumb end of the leash.” It was all about the dogs. We didn’t get to rest until our four-legged partners needs were met.

Police dogs are trained to achieve specific goals, such as patrol/suspect apprehension, tracking, and finding narcotics.

A dog’s sense of smell is 50 times more sensitive than humans. They also smell several different items at once, making it nearly impossible to mask the scent of narcotics and other illegal items (cell phones, CD’s, weapons, ammunition, explosives, etc.).

Where humans smell the combined odors spewing from a pot of stew cooking over a fire, a dog detects the stew’s individual ingredients—bat wings, eye of newt, spider web, stump water, an owl egg, etc.

The same is true when criminals hide drugs in various containers, such as a cocaine placed in a cooler beneath  layers of ice and dead, stinky fish. But, this method of hiding narcotics won’t fool a trained police dog.

A canine trained to detect narcotics is easily able to smell the odor of the cocaine, along with the scent of the fish, the plastic used to fabricate the container, and the scent of the person who handled the cooler.

The same is true no matter where drugs are hidden—luggage, in canisters containing black pepper, an engine compartment, etc.

Police dogs trained to apprehend bad guys are absolutely fearless. Once the handler lets his/her dog know which person is the target to take down, the canine immediately focuses on nothing but the bad guy. It’s like flipping a switch from happy and playful to serious and let’s go!

The method used to alert a dog to a particular person/target is often a guarded secret. And I’m not telling.

*By the way, today begins the first step in our move back to the left coast. The packers are here today and tomorrow, and the movers are scheduled to show up Wednesday morning to empty out our house. A week later we begin the journey westward.

During the next two weeks my blogging may be a bit sporadic, but I’ll try to post something each day. No guarantees, though.

Anyway, to those of you in our new hometown, we’ll see you sometime in April. Of course, we not exactly sure where we’ll settle down. We’ll make that decision after taking a hard right turn at Bakersfield, heading north toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’m anxious to connect and re-connect with writers in the San Francisco area. Please let me know about meeting locations and times.