RCMP: Pups in Training

COMMUNITY SAFETY Series
by Constable Steve Holmes

Puppies start police training very young by learning to obey commands and paying attention to what he is being taught. The pup doesn’t know it, but he is being watched very closely to see if he ‘has the right stuff’ to be a great police dog. He is also checked to make sure he stays healthy and is growing strong. Not all puppies are cut out to be police dogs. Those that don’t make it are given to loving homes. Those that do make it go on to formal police dog training in Innisfail Alberta, home of the R.C.M.P. dog training facility.

Police officers who want to be dog handlers must raise three to five puppies and be willing to volunteer their time to familiarize themselves with the world of police dog handling by being prey or quarries for the handlers and their dogs. They must put on bite arms and bite suits to play the part of the human dog treat after they run a track for the police dogs to follow.

Dogs that Make the Cut

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CST Chris Brinnen & Kaiser

If the police dog is successful in the track, he gets to chew the bite arm the person is wearing as a reward and this keeps the dog’s interest in what he is doing. If the dog handler in-training is selected, he will also go to Innisfail, Alberta where he will meet his new canine partner. There they will train together for over six months. In this time, an amazing bond will form between dog and human and the two will learn to communicate with each other so they can work well together in the field.

The handler will learn to efficiently control his dog and will learn to understand what the dog is telling him by his body language and voice. For instance, the dog is taught to tell his handler when he has found something either by sitting down or barking a certain way. The handler is also taught to use certain hand signals to tell his dog what to do. At the end of training, the dog and human have formed a working partnership that continues to develop when they go back into the community.

Smelling the Bad Guys

All police dogs are capable of tracking human scent, which falls off us like invisible dandruff. This scent lands on the ground or other things but doesn’t stay there forever as the wind and water can take it away. That’s why it’s important for police dogs to get to the crime scene as soon as possible so they can pick up the scent while it’s still there. Police dogs can also be trained to sniff out drugs, explosives, dead bodies, and objects that have human scent on them. Most police dogs have good long careers lasting 6-10 years on average.

After the dog is retired, if the handler wants to have another dog, he goes back to the police dog training facility and trains with another partner. Some of them work with several dogs during their careers and all police dog handlers will tell you that working with their furry friends is the best part of their day to day police work.

See you next time,
CST Steve Holmes