Drug sniffing and apprehension: Police K9 Leo and Sgt. McMahon helps Chippewa Falls stay safe | Local News

Audrey Korte The Chippewa Herald

We are a dog-obsessed nation and for good reason. They are quite amazing.

Working dogs are a breed in their own right.

Working dogs do it all: parachute into war zones, sniff out bombs or drug paraphernalia, push back into disaster areas, find dead bodies or survivors after a kidnapping, flood or tornado, and hunt down the fugitives or the missing. Working dogs can also help people with disabilities in their daily lives.

Dogs with this level of training and skill can comfort people after mass tragedy, defend handlers, first responders and citizens from threats, and they listen to their handlers. This last point should not be overlooked. A good working dog is nothing if it does not respond to commands.

The training of working dogs begins at the very beginning of their life. They often begin to learn commands just a few weeks after their time on earth.

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Some breeds are known for their ability to track or retrieve. Others are known for their camaraderie and camaraderie. As far as working dogs are concerned, the ideal is a combination of excellent temperament, high energy, listening skills and a wonderful nose.

Sometimes people think that certain dog breeds are born knowing how to do things, but that is definitely not the case. Like a top Olympic athlete, working dogs must hone their skills every day.

Dogs need to be able to read a situation, handle many different stimuli, and listen to their owners no matter what.

But there is one half of the equation that is often overlooked and that is the working handlers. Their dedication should never be questioned and what the average person doesn’t understand is the time and training it takes to handle a working animal.

Sergeant McMahon and Police K9 Leo

Police dogs sometimes get a bad rap depending on an individual’s experience with them. But they do their job every day. They must seek and defend, alert and yes, occasionally attack the bad guys.

“Well Leo, he’s a dual purpose dog and meaning dual purpose is apprehension as well as drugs,” Chippewa Falls Police Sgt. Stephen McMahon said. “Our training consists of more hours than if someone were just a one-time-use dog, like they were just sniffing drugs.”

Typically, trainings for Leo and McMahon involve no less than two to three hours per shift where both incorporate apprehension work or drug work.

“What all of this entails is someone in the drug business hiding drugs from me or me going out and hiding the drugs that I have, and deploying Leo to the areas, and then he works on him. to find them.”

McMahon and Leo are a team around the clock. Even when off duty, McMahon and Leo are together.

“People think it happens by magic, but we work, maybe not all day, but definitely every day. We work. I need him to trust me, to want to please me. He needs to know, both, that I’m in charge — the Alpha — and that I’m behind him,” McMahon said.

Sometimes the work is quite dangerous. But the master and his dog seem to accept that it is part of their duty.

“He and I, well him in particular, are still part of the Eau Claire SWAT team, so we have to make various calls,” McMahon said.

McMahon was careful not to share too much information that could compromise the integrity of current or past cases, nor to brag. But he said he was particularly proud of some of the calls he and Leo have had in recent years.

“Not to exaggerate our importance, but we have made a difference, you know, locally. We are doing a good job,” he said. “We helped with a topic a few years ago, so it was quite exciting with Leo. He got a lot of treats and toys that night.

McMahon said he and Leo do regional dog training each month that incorporates dogs from Douglas County, Baron County and other cities and counties in Wisconsin.

McMahon appreciated the opportunity he and Leo had to ride in Douglas and Superior County and get on a boat with the dogs to acclimate them to it, he said. It’s all part of training in areas filled with lakes and rivers.

“I’m not going to lie. It was fun,” he said.

McMahon was an officer before taking on the added responsibility of a police K9. Comparing the two, he says,

“I think the biggest difference is in the calls we just go to – either for apprehension tracking, or trying to find someone across a trail, or mid-air sniffing of vehicles for dope.”

Call volume may be insufficient or overwhelming, depending on what is happening in the area. But that’s kind of the point. They are ready for anything.

“It’s good because it keeps you on your toes,” McMahon said. “It also helps to pass the time because during that daily shift you are also training him and keeping him up to date on his abilities. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m a better officer with this dog .

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