Last week I shared that the humans behind the K-9 Officers are a special “breed”. They have to be dedicated to their work partner 24/7 and sometimes involve a decade or more of commitment. This week I’m going to share what I know about K-9 Officers training here in Rochester, Minnesota.
Training of K-9 Cops has changed drastically over the years. Sergeant Drees and his Unit are dedicated to the humane and decent training practices of their Officer Partners. This wasn’t always the case. When Sergeant Drees started, he was taught punishment training but as with all things, when we know better, we do better. Sergeant Drees knew there had to be a better way than teaching through fear. Now they teach the dogs that “all good things come from their handler”. The K-9’s work to earn their food and the first lesson is to maintain focus. After that, they learn the basics like sit, stand, and lay down. Sergeant Drees said, “The pinnacle of training is knowing that training is nothing more than learning to communicate back and forth.” Of course, as the relationship develops, things become increasingly complex and teaching a dog to apprehend a bad guy is difficult and exhausting. They use a dog treadmill to teach the K-9 Officer to run after and apprehend a person. This is much less labor intensive than having a person running away from the dog attempt after attempt. The last lesson learned/taught is when to stop their part in the apprehension process. They wear a collar called a Dominate Dog Collar that when tightened, applies pressure to the neck nerve. They combine this activation with the word “out” to teach discontinuation of apprehension. Training is 14 weeks long and maintenance is a minimum of 16 hours per month. Sergeant Drees said, “These dogs never get tired, they never ‘not’ want to work. They are never left home for 8 hours a day. They work.”
For some reason, I imagine our K-9 Officers heading to work every morning carrying their kibble to the car in their own lunch box equipped with bowl and water. I humanize them because of their dedication to the work that protects us. Next week, I’m going to share more about them – the dog behind the shield.
Tail Wags and Belly Rubs!!