Source: Sherman Publications

Getting to know noses that know
Elementary school training ground for police K-9s

by Samantha Shelley

June 22, 2011

Goodrich-Eiko is not your average dog.

The 18-month-old Dutch shepherd is a local K-9 unit officer’s newest partner.

On June 21, five local law enforcement departments, including Oakland and Genesee counties, gathered at Reid Elementary. With students out for summer vacation, the local school was used as a training ground for eight new K-9 unit dogs.

Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Bob Loken was there to train and to get to know Eiko, his new companion. In May, Loken’s previous K-9 partner for six years, Kaiser, died unexpectedly of natural causes.

“These dogs are like family,” said Loken. “We actually see our dogs more than our family. They work with us and then they come home with us.”

The new dogs, all young German shepherds, Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois, are shipped from their home countries in Europe specifically to be trained as K-9 tracking dogs. Eiko is originally from Holland. The police forces use the dog breeds from these locations because they are the perfect temperament for this type of work. “These dogs know that when it’s time to work, we work and when it’s time to be social, we’re social,” said Loken. Officers sometimes have locals wanting to donate their hot-tempered dogs to the K9 unit, but that isn’t how it works. “We don’t want a vicious dog. We want an even tempered dog that can be trained to know when they can and cannot be aggressive,” he said.

But not all dogs are trained in the same way. Police forces used to train dogs for specific jobs and would have one dog only search for narcotics and another only specialize in detecting exposives. More recently, however, with the economic downturn, “dual purpose dogs” have become more popular, seeing as one dog can take the place of many. “Dual purpose dogs do it all.They are trained to search buildings, track evidence, detect narcotics, weapons, and explosives and participate in search and rescue,” said Loken. This saves the police forces valuable time and money.

These local police forces meet up at least once a month to train their new dogs and continue training their experienced dogs in locations such as empty elementary schools. The training sessions include discipline, patience, and lots of praise. The canines are young enough to learn but are still restless so the sessions must involve commands and seriousness but also playtime and toys. “The training is constant, it never ends. We have to make sure these dogs can work during the day but also know how to play and be safe around people,” said Loken.

Without the K9 unit, the police officers would not be as successful with many of their cases as they have been. Dogs can smell 100,000 times better than humans and the officers take advdantage of that. “These dogs are huge part of the force and an officers bond with their K9 is incredible and one of a kind,” Loken said.