Dogs and handlers are certified at regional K9 training held in Carrollton | Chief Carrollton
K9 officers from across the region gathered at McInnish Park last week for regional qualifiers for the USPCA’s 2017 Annual National Police Dog Trials.
The goal of the US Police Canine Association Region 20 K9 Trials was to bring together the best trained dogs and handlers from around the world to learn about new ideas and training methods. The competitions also help standardize the training method for K9 officers and their canine partners.
Representing Carrollton were Officer Danny Witt and his K9 partner Endo along with Officer Geoff Smyder and Fax.
“Each year a city or county in the region hosts the trials and this is the fifth year that we have been part of the region, we felt it was our turn to step up and host them,” said Witt said. “We also knew we would have the support of the Citizens Service and the Police to be able to accommodate them. Organizing and raising funds for the trials can take time and take us away from our normal patrol duties.
The USPCA is the largest and oldest active organization of its kind. National Patrol Dog field trials are judged by National K9 Police Judges.
Each year there are usually around 15-20 teams. Most of the teams Region 20 sees are dual-purpose K9s, meaning they do narcotics and patrol. There are also occasional teams that make narcotics and explosives and cadaver dogs, but none were present this year, Witt said.
Certification tests are opportunities for dogs and handlers to become certified in their area of specialization. Scent work requires the driver and dog to search five cars trying to locate the drugs placed inside two of them. There is an additional building search where teams search for the hiding place hidden in two of the three rooms. To succeed, a team must find three of the total four discoveries.
The next few days include patrol drills including a box search, tracking, agility, obedience and criminal apprehension. The search box consists of six boxes in two rows. There is a decoy hiding in one of them and the dogs must locate this box and alert.
For the agility part, obstacles are set up to simulate real situations a dog might face on the street. There are four hurdles, a low crawl, a catwalk with a ladder at one end, an A-frame jump and a long jump.
Obedience includes gait control, distance control, and heeling.
“Obedience is used to determine whether or not you have control over your dog or not,” Witt said. “If you don’t pass the obedience portion of the test, you won’t be able to certify patrol work.”
The criminal apprehension part is used to show that a handler has control over when the dog apprehends a suspect. One section requires a dog to stay with the handler and not chase a decoy unless told to do so by the handler.
“It’s called a false start,” Witt said. “In this section, your dog must also be sent to bite the decoy, but he must remember before engaging the decoy when you call him back. This is called the portion reminder.
The dog then completes a decoy apprehension in the latter part of this section. Next is the criminal arrest section with gunshots. Here, the decoy shoots two blanks at the dog/handler team. The dog must grab the lure and release it when the handler gives the order.
“The handler then performs another search for the lure while the dog is in the down position,” Witt said. “The difference in this frisk is that while the handler is performing the frisk, the decoy is pushing the handler causing the dog to engage and bite the decoy,” Witt said. “The dog then has to let go of the bite when told to do so. The criminal arrest part is what people must love watching; however, it’s probably the most stressful part of the week for all dog handlers.
Tracking is a separate certification to show that dogs are able to recognize a scent on the ground and follow it to the end of the track.
“Events are kind of a competition with dogs winning prizes for different things, but the main purpose is to certify teams,” Witt said. “This certification helps show the credibility of the dog and handlers on the street. Dogs perform these tasks in a controlled environment that we are not always able to have on the street.
The top dog in competition this year was part of a team from McKinney.
Witt’s dog, Endo, is a German Shepherd, as is Smyder’s dog, Fax. Endo, Witt said, is part of his family.
“Endo is a big boy, so he loves his dog food as much as he loves his toys,” Witt said. “His favorite toy other than a decoy in a bite suit is a green rubber ball on the end of a rope made by Star Ball. Endo spends more time in my pool than I do. even-tempered for a police dog. He likes to be loved and get attention. Endo is a big ham for attention and never meets a stranger (but) he knows when to turn on the “police dog” and when not to not do it.”