Puppy in training as police dog
BY KAITLIN SLOAN
OU News Bureau
The Sterling Heights Police Department recently began training a new K-9 puppy — and she is catching on quickly.
On average, K-9s in training can detect narcotics after a year. Ivy learned how to in three months.
“Ivy has been doing great,” said Ivy’s handler, Officer Darren Steele. “She is very smart, often learning new things on the first try. I do some type of training with her every day.”
Ivy, a 4-month-old Dutch shepherd, was sworn in Feb. 7. Steele has been on the force for 22 years — 18 of those years as a K-9 trainer.
“I was lucky enough to be chosen as a K-9 handler,” Steele said. “It has been a great experience. You learn something every day, which keeps the job interesting.”
Ivy is Steele’s third K-9 dog. Ten-year-old K-9 Blitz is retiring from the police force once Ivy completes her training.
Most police agencies in the United States use K-9s as a means of law enforcement. David “Lou” Ferland, executive director of the United States Police Canine Association, said there are approximately 10,000 police K-9 municipal county, state, and federal units.
The most common use for the two Sterling Heights K-9s tends to be for tracking narcotics and explosives.
“Being a locating tool is the K-9’s number one purpose,” Sterling Heights K-9 handler Richard Heins said. “Their secondary use would be aggression or handler protection.”
Heins has spent 23 of his 28 years on the police force as a handler. His K-9, Chase, is a 9-year-old Dutch shepherd.
K-9 handlers first put their dogs through what the department calls Patrol Dog 1, which trains them in suspect and article location, apprehension and verbal release. Once completed, the dog will be able to actively engage and search the suspect.
Then, K-9s go through Patrol Dog 2, which incorporates handler protection and tracking victims, narcotics and explosives. According to Heins, the K-9s do not get injured in action as often as their handlers do.
The dog then receives a detector certification.
“We don’t cross train dogs to be a detector in more than one field.” Heins said. “You don’t want a narcotics dog searching for explosives. We don’t want to give them the opportunity to make an error.”
Ivy will complete her training in September dual trained in narcotics and patrol.
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