The DNR K9 unit has proved its effectiveness and value in search and rescue operations, handler/public protection, evidence recovery and game and fish detection. Currently there are two K9 officers with dogs in the DNR, Officer Kanieski and his dog Saber and Officer Muyres and his dog Hunter. Saber and Hunter are German Shepherds imported from the Czech Republic. The dogs and their handlers are trained to assist conservation officers and other law enforcement agencies throughout the state with:
- Tracking of persons
- Wildlife detection
- Evidence recovery
- Officer protection
- Criminal apprehension
The use of specially trained dogs increases the state's abilities to detect wildlife violations, find trespassers and catch poachers. The K9 unit is primarily funded by donations.
K9 Unit Q & A
Why do you use imported dogs? Very few dogs have what it takes to be a successful police dog. Law enforcement work places unusual demands on dogs and only true working dogs succeed. The main traits in a police dog are their drive and confidence. They must be high energy dogs that are able to funnel their energy into completing the required missions as necessary. They must be fearless and obedient.
The availability of high quality dogs bred with their working drives intact is the primary reason German Shepherd dogs are imported. Countries like the Czech Republic produce the numbers of true working dogs desired and needed by American law enforcement.
Qualified dog trainers fly to Europe and test hundreds of potential police dog candidates. Only the best dogs that display the characteristics necessary for police work are selected. The dogs are usually about a year and a half old when tested, selected and imported. The dogs are sold to the law enforcement agencies with guarantees on their abilities to pass the 12 week training school as well as a limited health guarantee. A good police dog often isn't the best pet or show dog. The main reason for this is that their internal working drives are extremely high. Most pet owners do not have the time to funnel that energy into positive behaviors.
There are quality police dog breeders in the United States; however the demand is much higher than the supply. Many local breeders prefer to sell puppies rather than waiting for law enforcement agencies to hand-pick one or two dogs from their litter at a year old. It is much more difficult for these breeders to sell adult dogs vs. puppies as pets.
Where are the dogs kept, do they live with their handler? Each DNR K9 is assigned their own handler. The dog lives with the handler and their family at the handler's home. The handler is responsible for the daily care and training necessary to ensure the dog excels at its tasks.
The dogs have indoor/outdoor kennels to ensure they are properly acclimated to seasonal temperatures, so they can work in those conditions. They are allowed inside the homes of the handlers and spend a great deal of time with the handler and their family. This helps to ensure the dog's social needs are also met.
What kind of training do the dogs receive? The handlers and dogs attend a 12 week police dog school. They are trained to the certification standards of the United States Police Canine Association. During this school the dogs are trained in various areas to include; tracking of persons, criminal apprehension, evidence searching/recovery, officer protection, obedience and agility.
DNR K9 handlers and dogs also attend 3 weeks of fish and wildlife detection training. This training develops the dog's abilities to locate specific scents to assist in our mission to protect the state's natural resources from poaching. After the formal training the dogs continue with annual certifications and ongoing training to maintain their proficiency.
How long does the dog work and what happens to the dog when he can't work anymore? 9-10 years of age is getting on the high side of a police dogs career. The decision to retire a dog however is not based on age but on the dogs abilities and health. As the dog ages, they start to slow down and begin having difficulties in certifying every year, as required. Usually the handler starts to notice this when training for jumps and hurdles in the agility portion of the certification process. Once the decision is made by the DNR to retire the dog, the handler is normally given the opportunity to take ownership of the dog where it remains a part of the handler's family.