Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Writers... K-9 Demo at the Sheriff's Office

A few Wednesdays ago my writers tip was: Go Out and Do Things. Last week I did. I signed up for our local Sheriff's Office Senior Citizens Law Enforcement Academy. From 1 to 5, Monday thru Friday we met in the Jury Assembly Room in the Judicial Building. Each day was intensive in the amount of information that was shared with us.

Many of the 20+ participants were retired residents interested in volunteering for the Citizens Patrol. These volunteers support the patrol deputies buy taking care of the less important details like parking tickets, VIN checks, etc.

I went to the Academy for a different reason. As a writer, I want to make my stories as authentic as I possibly can. That means I need to do research, either on-line or in person. I'll report about these lectures from a writers POV. Since I'm working on a series I call the Cottonwood County Sheriff's Office, I was extra interested in this academy.

Today I'm going to share my notes from the
K-9 Narco & Patrol Demo. 

First, in every lecture, I noted the uniforms and took notes for future reference. Not pictured here, the deputy who was giving the lecture was wearing a long-sleeved navy T-shirt.  "... CSO K-9 Sheriff" was silkscreened in white along the sleeves, which he pushed up when we stepped outside in the hot sun. The sheriffs star was silkscreened over the left chest. He wore black cargo pants and on his belt was attached: holster, cuffs and a leash wrapped around his waist, clipped in front.

As you can see in on the left of the photo, the second deputy is wearing a khaki button-down short-sleeve uniform shirt and cargo pants.

Other notes from the demo:

The deputy in the attack suit is the decoy, teasingly called the "Chew Toy". The suite protects him from the dog's sharp teeth but not their strong jaws. Decoys do end up with bruised arms and legs. When a deputy wants to become part of the K-9 team s/he has to spend two years as a Chew Toy. At the same time s/he learns the basics and still does his/her regular duties. Being on the K-9 team involves a lot of extra hours. Once the deputy is assigned a dog, they are together 24/7. The dog and the K-9 unit go home with the deputy.

In my county there are 6 K-9 teams, 5 for patrol and one in the jail.

The deputy explained that there are two ways to train a K-9 to attack. Compulsive, beat it until it fights back. Or Impulsive, use the dog's natural desire to play and chew and encourage it to do it on command. This way the dogs are easier to control. They are obeying their alpha male (the trainer/deputy) and are rewarded with praise. There's nothing more a dog wants to do than please its alpha male. Of course our deputies use the second technique. As twenty or so of us stood out in the gated parking lot listening to the lecturer, the second deputy walked his dog around us, very close. I was really impressed with the dog's total concentration on his trainer. With just a click of his tongue the trainer could send the dog on attack and just as easily call him off. Because the dog was trained with praise/reward, he has no grudge against his target and doesn't feel the need to continue attack.

It was very impressive to watch a dog sent to attack, then called back so easily. The handler could stop the dog at any point in the exercise.

The dogs are trained in a different language, usually German, so that they don't get their commands mixed up with commands called out to other personnel.

Sometimes all a deputy needs to do is show his dog and a suspect will give in. They'd rather be shot than attacked.

Patrol dogs save lives, Narcotics dogs make money. As in confiscated property.

One dog can search the same area that would take 25 humans.

Their primary purpose is to locate.

An increase use of force (dogs) reduces the amount of force (humans) needed to arrest.

The dogs are issued Kevlar vests but seldom wear them. The vests incumber their movements and most dog are shot in the head, not the chest.

Dogs are certified in locating drugs like marihuana, meth, heroin, ecstasy.

They learn to sniff vehicles, buildings, outdoor areas, boats, aircraft, etc.

Patrol dogs search buildings, outdoor areas, high risk vehicles, help with crowd control, and tracking.

Sheriff's officers prefer dogs bred in Europe. Dogs bred in the US are usually bred for looks, in Europe they're bred for intelligence and temperament.

And those are my notes from the K-9 Demo. Hope you found it interesting and maybe some day the information will come in handy.

If you have any experience with K-9 Law Enforcement, I love to hear about it.


  1. Wow! Utterly fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing your notes, Christy. I learned so much I would have never guessed. So interesting about the commands in German, but using another language makes perfect sense. And the "chew toy" info was intriguing. What these men and women go through! You gathered so much great information for a writer to use. Fabulous!

  2. Hi Mae, I didn't realize how much I wrote. Kind of long. Maybe I should have posted it in segments! Glad you found it interesting. I took tons of notes and K-9 was only one hour out of 20.