North Texas Daily

Police canines get certified in necessary skills

Police canines get certified in necessary skills

Police canines get certified in necessary skills
March 31
00:03 2015

Steven James / Senior Staff Writer

Police officers in sunglasses and K-9 T-shirts congregated on Discovery Park’s grassy field last week to certify police dogs from the North Texas area in different types of law enforcement jobs.

K-9, part of the United States Police Canine Association, certifies dogs in several areas of police work including narcotics, suspect apprehension, agility and explosives. One dog is assigned to one handler.

“I can train the dogs, but I still want you to learn how to handle the dog,” chief judge Skip Brewster said. “Is he telling me where the man is? Is he telling me where the dope is?”

According to the association’s website, after a handler and their dog complete certification, they go before a court who reviews them and hands down a police dog rating. Twenty-one dogs participated in last week’s Region 25 training, which includes Grapevine, Denton, Gainesville, Wichita Falls and UNT police departments. USPCA Region 25 president Brian Hintz said all 21 were certified.

“I’ve been doing it for about 35 years and I love it,” Brewster said. “They do go home with us and we do build that bond up.”

Brewster said it normally takes 12 to 14 weeks to properly train a dog before he is ready to try certification.

Dogs and handlers are scored by a group of judges from their respective regions. At least 490 cumulative points are required for certification and a police dog rating.

Wichita Falls police officer and K-9 handler Aaron New said this is the third year he and his dog, Turko, have been through the certification process.31_k9_web2

Gino the German shepherd competes in the box search, an activity in which dogs search for someone hidden in one of six boxes. Gino’s handler is Russell Weier.

New and Turko are in the narcotics division. He said with narcotics, dogs and their handlers have to train in vehicle and building searches. The handler does not know where the drugs are, and the dog has to show it knows where the drugs are hidden.

“You spend a lot of time together and all the time training, actually out on the streets together,” New said. “A bond between a handler and a dog is a pretty strong bond. Actually getting out and seeing your dog do good is very rewarding.”

Before beginning the certification process, handlers must be members of the canine association. They must also be paid, full-time law enforcement officers at either a local, state or federal police department. Retired members who served at least 10 consecutive years may get recertified as well.

Nearly all the certification events test the dog’s obedience to his handler, but each activity has its own unique purpose for testing the dog’s police abilities, according to the association’s website.

Brewster said in the apprehension test, the dog is agitated in some way, mainly from the firing of a gun to the ground with blanks. The dog then runs after an officer with protective padding on his arm and bites him.

Apprehension training tests how well dogs handle multiple situations going on at once.

For agility, dogs have to run an obstacle course consisting of a hurdle, a catwalk, a crawling exercise, walking on top of an A-frame and a broad jumping exercise.

Brewster said after the dogs are certified, they go into whichever area of work they fit into. Some of the dogs will go into narcotics while others will go into rescue. He said part of that depends on what the dog did before certification and what its handler does.

“You get to work with a living creature,” Hintz said. “In law enforcement, he’s considered a tool, but it’s a very fascinating job because he is a living creature. You have to understand them through their body language to get them to work with you.”

Featured Image: Alpha walks with his handler Kirk Horton of the Clay County sheriff’s office after the Box Search. The Police Dog Certification Tests were held at Discovery Park on March 24. Photos by Devin Dakota – Staff Photographer 

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