I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get visuals when I hear catchy phrases like “4-legged Friend”. “The Dog Behind the Shield” creates a cartoon in my mind of a spry Golden Doodle wearing a pair of blue pants, tail sticking out of a homemade hole in the back, a Billy club hanging off to one side, a big silver shield velcro’d to the collar, and a helmet pulled tightly around its ears. Of course this Golden Doodle is friendly and kind, ready to pounce on any unsuspecting child holding cotton candy at the carnival. The imagination bubble above my head pops and my conversation with Sergeant Drees crashes through creating a more serious reality. These K-9 Cops are anything but cute cartoons or average 4-legged friends. They’re serious business and not easily found.
These shield bearing dogs are purchased from the Czech Republic and are not a typical German Shepherd like the household pets we Americans are accustomed to loving. These dogs have substantially more energy and a higher drive to work. When deciding whom to purchase from, Law Enforcement avoids large plantations because dogs from plantations are often mistreated. They are very selective and purchase from a family-type breeder who starts them as puppies holding things like metal and other uncomfortable items in their mouth, building them up, teaching confidence, and focusing on their work training. By the time the dogs are sold, they are considered a “Green Dog”; meaning they are guaranteed to bite. Did you get that? They are GUARANTEED to BITE! Not AT ALL like my cartoon bubble…but I digress. Typically, a Green Dog sells for $8500.00.
Sergeant Drees pointed out additional differences between K-9 Officers and a typical family pet. For example, K-9 Officers are not kept in the house with the family, share human food, or sleep with humans. They have to know their place and that place is beneath their handler. Treating them like part of the family would send the wrong message. Human officers rely on K-9 officers knowing their place in the field thereby following orders with precision. Physically, they need a dual fur coat to survive the winters in Minnesota but are always given shelter to get away from the elements. There are good reasons for these differences. Imagine a K-9 officer not acclimated to cold winter temperatures and needed to locate a lost child in -40 degree weather. The K-9 Officer would be in danger of hypothermia and would have a limited ability to pursue their target if not for their outdoors living.
There are so many things to consider while selecting and training our K-9 protectors. They must be smart and desire the approval of their handler in order to be prepared for duty. Despite picking the right dog from the right breeders and trainers, they can still fail! My next blog will touch on what happens when all our best efforts aren’t good enough and the dog in training has to go.
Tail Wags and Belly Rubs!