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The K9 training debate

1175 Views 9 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  David Frost
Making the case for the K9 Unit to be in charge of its own training:

1) The K9 Unit is a Specialised function and this aspect needs to be acknowledged and not down played.

In Lieu of the question who is or should be in charge of the K9 Unit training?

Well this is my point and argument I would like to make, the K9 unit is a specialised function, that is multi faceted and layered, and can thus only be managed properly by a “specialist” , a person in the know. Just like a doctor is a specialist, and a plumber and one would only expect one specific field to be addressed by them, and not cross fields under the banner of training.. Yes we can all clean a wound, or fix a leaking pipe. But does that make us a doctor or a Plumber? No – not by a long shot, this is one of the arguments most departments struggle with when they have to decide where the K9 unit training function will reside. Will it be with the training division, or the K9 unit.

This is a pita: a working dog differs from a pet in this respect, firstly it is an animal, that has much more needs than a pet, and the dog gets worked from the cradle to the grave in this regard, or so to speak.

The point is this: when discussing the issue of the Management of the K9 unit as a full function, why do we want to take the training aspect and throw it with the training division. We need to distinguish clearly what aspects we are about to address, and unpack it to add value. The aspects of K9 Unit Management could be dissected to show the following levels of expertise required.

a) Operational Management – in the field utilisation – law – implication.
b) Conditioning Management – basic training – fitness – socialisation.
c) Training Management – all aspects. Man and Dog.
d) Maintenance and logistics Management – administration of unit.
e) Kennel Management – this includes car, home, and vehicle.

The “dog” and who needs to manage the “dogs” training that makes up the essence of the unit, then the staff function the people that manage the dogs, their feeding programs, inoculations, conditioning and training as well as all other related aspects without having to go into too much detail here – should be one aspect. It is evident that the strategic management and logistical, kennel, conditioning and maintaining are all the behind the scenes stuff that are required from a K9 Unit Commander, then the operational function, surfaces. The K9 and handler, the mind set of a pet equates to a working dog in all aspects, should be removed as reference from this debate, for it is and will never hold truth in relation to what actually is happening on the road between man and dog.

In the one instance, the dog is a tool; in the other, he is an animal with needs.

We have to remove ourselves from our pet dogs at home paradigm as reference to this debate. The one’s we grew up with when entering constructive debate as to what will be our personal preference and a reference when arguing this point.

We have to view dogs as working animals, like the one’s at the circus, for the a for mentioned argument holds no truth except for the outer outward appearances and similarities our dogs share at home and have with their counter parts in the police.

To put this in perspective, one needs to understand the K9 Unit Commanders task, role, and function. He has one job, and that’s to revolve and evolve the “ tools”(and I say this with the deepest of respect to argue a point).

Keeping them sharp, the “tools or dogs” that is, is a mammoth task so to speak as well as the caring and managing of day to day events. Stated very simplistically you cannot be caught with your pants down when managing a unit of this nature, things can and will go wrong very fast, if the functional and personal discipline disappears from the scene.

Lets follow the “revolving process” of a dog in the dog unit: for one thing, people only see one dog and handler. No one takes into account that some handlers might have as many as two even three dogs, some as many as four dogs in his career as a handler, and these dogs must come from somewhere and someone must breed, raise, condition, prep and train them and nurse them until they become serviceable and trainable, and then keep them serviceable.

Just like knives they need regular sharpening with an eight hour a week re-training program, or some call it conditioning that has to take place. In order to keep the working permit, just like a gun licence in place.

The continuation of K9 units, and the keeping of expertise start with the picking of a puppy or young adult dog, or even several from a batch, for future use, then prepping – preparing him for future use. As an explosives dog or search and rescue for example etc.

Then the process starts, the revolving of new, to mature, to old - with daily conditioning, then socialising, then habitation, imprinting and then only formal training, then certification and then the dog gets his permit and joins the force.

This could take anything from eight to sixteen months – just to arrive at the point where you can pair a working certified dog with a trained handler. Well this is explained very simplistic one’s again.

The point I am trying – sometimes futile – to get across is that, an “instructor” from the training division looses out on this evolving posses, and he becomes blunt him self, and distracted if he joins the ranks of the training division that falls out side the ambit of the K9 unit.

What are your views on this?
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This is the exact reason I left SAR with my dog. To many people in charge that were clueless about propper dog training.
<<<The K9 Unit is a Specialised function and this aspect needs to be acknowledged and not down played.>>

Agree. All functions of the canine are handled by the canine unit. Our training division trains the people, we train dogs and dog teams. To be more specific, the training division trains the Troopers in all police related functions. The canine unit trains the dogs and Troopers in all canine related functions. Fleet takes care of all vehicles, although the canine unit director establishes how the canine transport units are set up differently than the regular road cars.

<<<revolving process” of a dog in the dog unit:>>>

All of our dogs are procurred as adult dogs, untrained. The canine training staff selects the dogs and assigns them to handlers. We don't breed or raise pups. To us it doesn't matter if it's a handlers 1st or 4th dog. The training is the same and the handler is expected to meet the specific objectives for that regimen of training. The handler will still go through the full course of instruction with the new dog. Depending on the functions the dog is being trained for, this could take anywhere from 10 to 18 weeks.

<<<Just like knives they need regular sharpening with an eight hour a week re-training program,>>

In service training is required, by General Order. In service training is 16 hours a month. All training is documented and reviewed by the training staff on a monthly basis. A written quarterly review is conducted on all teams. Each team recieves an annual practical evaluation and certification. Any team falling below the prescribed proficiency standards is removed from service and entered into a retraining course.

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From what I gather, some dogs are procurred from the military programs (washouts?) as adults. But it appears that some lack the proper civil/social balance for civilian police work, and end up returning to the military. I think Military dogs should be raised differently, there should be no surprise that they aren't suitable for civilian work. I'm sure individual departments for even major cities couldn't budget a program on that scale. Perhaps a state-run program for breeding & raising police dogs could be the answer (one for each state)? I don't fully understand all of the ramifications, much less the politics that might be involved, but I think it's an idea worth getting out.
<<<<Perhaps a state-run program for breeding & raising police dogs could be the answer (one for each state)?>>> It just isn't cost effecient. The military and a large university both have breeding programs. At best, only 50% of the pups they produce will make it as a working dog. While the military certainly has more of a budget than most law enforcement departments, it's also a question of manpower, facilities etc. It just isn't feasible. In the early 70's the military tried the same thing. Selected breeding and rearing. All conducted initially at the Land Warfare Laboratory at Aberdeen Md. It was cancelled as well. Primarily because of cost vs. production. Most departments I'm familiar with don't buy puppies because it's a crap shoot on whether or not they'll make it through training. It's obvious in the number of imports that are purchased by both the military and civilian law enforcement.

<<< think Military dogs should be raised differently, there should be no surprise that they aren't suitable for civilian work. >>>>

I don't know why this should be. Having been in both the military working dog program (23 years) and civilian law enforcment dog programs (17 years) {{ damn I'm getting old}} I fail to see the difference in what is expected from a dog in the military and one in civilian law enforcement. In the 60's, I can understand with the use of the Sentry dog, but I fail to see the difference today.

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I agree David. Having spent most of my career in the MWD program also. I have taken close to a dozen MWD dogs from the school (rejects) since entering the civilian police world and turned all of them except 1 who just would not track or locate evidence into outstanding police dog's. Only 1 was handler and people aggressive and with the patience of the handler we were able to at least stop the handler aggression.
Phil, you've given somewhat of an answer to something I've always heard/read. MWD washouts often are great dogs, but the military can't/doesn't/wont take the extra effort to find out what makes them tick. True of false?
True, only because they are required to put so many dogs in service. If there is a problem often times they do not have the time to fix it so they put them up for adoption to civilian agencies who have the time to fix it. 2 dogs we procured were nervous on slippery floors, easily fixed with a litlle patience and an empty stomach. 1 lacked concentration, after given time to observe his surroundings and the world in general for about a week he became one hell of a dual trained dog.
I fail to see the difference in what is expected from a dog in the military and one in civilian law enforcement.
It' been my understanding that higher levels of "civil agression" are undesireable for police work, because of dealing with the public. I was assuming that the military was not so concerned with the social aspect of the dog, from what I've heard in the testaments of my MWD friend. But his long ago experience in the military was not much like today's mission.
<<<But his long ago experience in the military was not much like today's mission.>>>

My point exactly. Up until about 1968, the military used the Sentry Dog exclusively. The sentry dog was unlike anything the military has today. The only two things we were concerned with relative the sentry dog was it's ability to "scout" (air scent) and bite. The rest was fluff. Obediance was minimal. There were no requirements for off-leash anything but bite. Release was, the vast majority of the time, obtained by choking the dog off. Most certainly would not release on command. In late 69 early 70, the military embarked on a program to train nothing but patrol dogs. Many of the sentry dogs of the day were placed in a program to retrain them to the patrol dog standards. The military dog school, for all intents and purposes stopped training sentry and went to patrol. Thier patrol dog school was patterned after the patrol dogs of Metro Wash. DC canine unit. Thier instructors were the ones that came to Texas and taught the instructors of the military. There is very little difference in the military dog of today and those used civilian police departments. At least as far as learning objectives go.

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