Inside this book you will find comprehensive information on every aspect of the K9 unit, from administration to officer safety on the job. With two decades of experience, R. S. Eden presents expert training exercises and deployment procedures. Action photos back up his points. In addition, the author examines the attitudes of law enforcement officers from both within and outside the K9 team and analyzes how this affects officer performance and morale.
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Robert S. Eden is a retired 28 year police veteran. Working with the Delta Police Department in British Columbia, Canada, Robert became a member of the dog section in 1983 and was appointed to the B.C. Police Commission’s committee to create minimum police dog training standards for law enforcement agencies in the province. In 1991 he created and developed the International Police K9 Conference, a training seminar that was neither politically oriented nor specific to any particular style of training. Robert continues to consult worldwide on police K9 operations.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 1: K9 AdministrationIntroduction To Police Administrators
There are many differences in the way law enforcement agencies organize and operate their K9 units. Whatever those differences may be, there is one factor common to most departments. In the United States and Canada, budget constraints almost always hit the dog section of a department before any other section.
This has a direct effect on the officers within the section and their ability to perform successfully on the street, which in turn affects the safety of both the dog handlers and line officers they support.
Budget constraint is a necessary evil with any agency. Cutting costs in any section is difficult and there is never an easy solution. The difference between the dog section and other sections of the department is the liability factor. If you have dogs on the street, the department’s potential for lawsuits will be considerable if those teams do not have the most up-to-date training available. Training budgets for a K9 section (including courses, in-service training and associated equipment) cannot afford to be conservative. To limit budgets will only put the program and department at risk.
Any good police service dog needs to be worked consistently and regularly to keep him efficient in all areas of training. While it is preferable to have a full time-training program operating, budgets of small departments may not be capable of supporting a full-time in-service program. At the minimum, weekly in-service training programs are required to keep K9 teams proficient.
With liability concerns as they are today, any administrator who is responsible for a dog unit has to make training and record keeping a priority. This record keeping must document all weekly in-service training which is required to keep a team at a basic level of proficiency. Note that 35 to 40 percent of a K9 team’s in-service time must be spent on training, in order for them to maintain a minimum standard of proficiency. This is considered a minimum. Agencies which fail to support their K9 teams with adequate training time are putting their officers at risk while also running a high risk of liability for their department.
Good record keeping cannot be stressed enough, and accurate training records are only the first in a series of documents that the dog unit should maintain. Whenever a team is deployed—regardless of success—submit a report outlining the application and circumstances of the event. Document any use of force by the dog on a suspect; if the dog has made physical contact with the suspect, the injury site should be photographed and held on file.
If adequately defined, these deployment records not only supply pertinent data for court purposes, but can also reveal patterns for the unit’s head trainer. By studying a series of deployment reports over a given period of time, the training officer can determine weaknesses in a particular dog team’s training. For example a team may exhibit a high rate of failure on tracking applications where there is a time delay in excess of ten minutes, or where the temperature is higher than 15.5 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). This could be indicative of a dog that lacks stamina and needs work in these areas.
Health records on each dog are vital to ensure the dog’s shots and medical checkups are kept up to date. This protects the department as well.
Record keeping can often be a cumbersome task, as any police officer knows. However it is the best protection you have against liabilities. It can be a double-edged sword as well, as any documentation can be subpoenaed by defense counsel or litigation attorneys. It is prudent for officers to write their reports with this in mind.
K9 Training SchoolsAbbreviated Training Schools
A common arrangement used by administrators in the United States in attempts to cut costs is to send officers on abbreviated training programs. They reason they cannot afford to send the officer away on a twelve- to sixteen-week training program, due to the time he would be off the road. The problems with this type of an operation are numerous and all too common, and the result is time lost and double the intended investment. The following situation is an example of problems which arise when a department tries to cut corners financially.
Case StudyAn officer who was having a problem with his dog contacted me. His department had purchased a dog and sent it to a private training facility to train. When the dog’s training was complete, the officer attended a three-week handler course to learn how to work with the dog. He sent me a video to view and after giving him some recommendations, I stated my doubts about the dog’s ability to be street workable.
The team hit the streets and had problems almost immediately. The officer who was handling the dog had never worked dogs before. As a result he had to trust in the judgment of the facility his department hired to evaluate and train his dog. He had no concept of how to work out the problems on his own. He had not been through a complete training program that taught him how to evaluate problems and train the dog. He had only learned the rudimentary concepts of how to handle an already trained animal.
The dog worked a year on the street but never made any physical contact with any suspect. His tracking ability was excellent, but his lack of will to make physical contact or fight suspects caused the handler genuine concern. In speaking with me he advised of a situation which occurred that he felt was quite serious. The dog had abandoned him during a dangerous confrontation with a suspect, failing him entirely. The officer was concerned that if he reported to his administration that the dog was unworkable, the program would be shut down. In this case, the dog was removed from the program and the officer was sent on another training program with a new dog.
Many dogs sold throughout North America to police K9 programs are imported from overseas suppliers by private agencies. When the dog arrives in the United States or Canada, the importing agent often has no knowledge of the history of the animal. Since the demand for police dogs is great, these agencies often locate, train and sell dogs very quickly. Even with minimum turn around time, the agencies are unable to keep up with the demand for dogs. Fortunately most companies are reputable and put the proper time into the dog before placing the dog with a law enforcement agency.
Once the dog is ready, the police department then sends a candidate officer for training. Often the officer is chosen because he has exhibited the most interest in the program, or because he is a high producer on the street. These qualifications do not always make a good dog handler. Although the officer has the desire, he might not have the type of personality to become a good handler. An experienced dog trainer will be able to help in making that judgment.
The officer who attends a brief program obtains the minimum amount of training required to handle the dog. Through no fault of the training agency, he receives a small portion of the training he really requires. This is a direct result of time constraints placed upon him.
As a result of these limitations the officer can only learn basic handling skills. There is not enough time to teach him how to train a dog. Any experienced K9 officer knows an officer cannot properly work a dog without adequate basic training as a foundation. When a training problem such as control work comes forth at a later date, the officer has no concept of how to correct it properly. His only recourse is to return to the training centre to remedy the problem. This takes the team off the road again and is a further added expense for the department. If the problem is ignored because the department cannot afford to send the officer for remedial work, they are exposed to possible lawsuit. It is not hard to see why a short handler’s course with a pre-trained dog might not be suitable.
Abbreviated programs are ideal for officers who have previously completed a full training program and have worked a dog on the street for a number of years. They can take advantage of the reduced training time and at the same time be upgraded in their training.
Training vs. Handling
There is a distinct difference between training a dog and handling a dog. A well-trained dog can be handled by giving it appropriate direction and working with the animal. However, an officer cannot train a dog simply by learning how to handle it.
A good dog handler must understand how his dog thinks and how to read and understand the dog’s behavior language. He must have a full understanding of how he can communicate with his dog and how his dog communicates with him. This is a prerequisite to the officer’s tactical training, as everything the dog does tells the officer about the situation. Subtle body movements can indicate imminent danger to the well trained officer. The only way to learn the skills required to communicate with his partner adequately is for the officer to train the dog from the start.
The officer needs to learn how to select an untrained dog. He then learns to temperament test the dog for law enforcement use and how to train him. Upon completing a full program the officer then has the ability to work on most problems that arise in the dog’s performance, without having to return to the agency where the dog was purchased.
Full Training Programs
If an officer starts to encounter training problems with his dog, the only recourse many departments have is corrective training at the facility where the dog was acquired. The agency that sold the dog employs qualified trainers who can work out the problems with the dog and return the team back to duty, but this is not productive or cost-effective.
Placing the officer through a full training program is a long term savings and produces teams that are superior on the street to those who have only received a basic handlers program. Afull training program also allows the officer to learn advanced tactical training crucial to a K9 team. I cannot stress enough the need for full and proper training that includes officer survival techniques. A successful team will encounter more armed suspects and be at a higher risk simply because of its success rate. Therefore, it is reprehensible to deny a team appropriate training.
If you are going to use a private vendor, send your officer to a training facility which offers a full training program—one which allows him to learn how to train the dog from the basics up.
Apprehension TechniquesReasonable Force vs. Handler Control
With the debate over standard handler-control training, as opposed to reasonable-force work, the dangers of civil litigation have become more complex. Reasonable force, which is also referred to as minimum force or circle and bark, has stirred up a lot of controversy about how police dogs are used in our society. It is a fallacy that using reasonable-force dogs alleviates lawsuits.
Numerous lawsuits have been launched from police dog applications involving victims who have been needlessly attacked by service dogs. Although the lawsuit may be the result of a dog bite, the handler’s judgment and training will be the focal point of attorneys’ cross-examinations. When there is justification for K9 application, every court in North America to date has upheld the use of handler-control techniques.
Reasonable-force dogs, both in theory and in practice in some departments, perform very well as street dogs. They sustain a low “bite ratio” on suspects, which appeals to department administrations. However, many hours of training are required for reasonable-force dog teams in order to keep the dogs sufficiently clean. This means if the training is not both proper and consistent, the dog will begin to bite in street applications when not warranted.
Agencies who buy pretrained Schutzhund-based dogs will be more susceptible to training difficulties and have a high risk for liability. Schutzhund dogs are trained for sporting events, with an emphasis on control work. This training is done in a sterile, cut and dried type of environment where the dog is conditioned to perform with exactly the same response in every situation. The scenarios never change and the same response is expected o f the dog in each situation. Street situations are different with every application of a dog. The conditioning done in Schutzhund training, if extended into the advanced phases of training, causes difficulties when the dog must be converted to police work application. With the diversities required for police work, the police trainer frequently has to “untrain” the dog to make him useful for police work. If the dog is at an advanced level of Schutzhund training, this retraining of the dog can be difficult, and in times of real life applications the dog may revert back to its original training. This return to the basics first learned by the dog during Schutzhund training can mean a deadly situation on the street.
When purchasing potential candidates, Schutzhund-based dogs are excellent prospects for police work if acquired before training has passed beyond a Schutzhund I level. Anything over that can create specific difficulties for the law enforcement trainer. If your department has mandated a reasonable force policy, contact an agency that is running a successful police-oriented reasonable force program based on the German police methods of training. Two excellent training programs at the time of this writing are run by Wendell Nope at the Utah POST Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah and Terry Rogers of the Denver Police Department K9 Unit.
Theory of Reasonable Force
The theory of reasonable-force dogs maintains that if a suspect gives up, the dog will not bite, and that the dog is frequently in the position to make the decision whether or not to bite. Depending on the level of basic training and the amount of in-service work, this may or may not be true.
The dog has no ability to reason out a decision as to what the suspect’s intentions are. The dog will only react to circumstances for which he has been conditioned. If improperly conditioned, he will bite when it is not warranted, or will not bite when needed the most. No trainer could possibly condition a dog for every conceivable action or reaction it will encounter on the street. This imposes limitations on the reasonable-force teams.
A handler using handler-control methods of apprehension, given the same set of circumstances as a reasonable-force dog, will direct his dog to bite only when necessary. If circumstances do not warrant a bite, the handler calls the dog off the attack, orders the dog to guard the suspect and proceeds with the arrest.
With a reasonable-force dog, when circumstances warrant a bite, the dog will also bite and hold onto the suspect until called off by the handler. If the situation does not warrant a b...
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