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maggi90w1
11-20-2010, 12:34 AM
I'm looking for a career for one of my characters and I would like to make him some kind of dog trainer.
I was thinking police dog trainer, but I have no idea how the police trains dogs. I assume the trainers are part of the police force. Are the dog trainers only responsible for training dogs/ showing policeman how to train their dogs or do they have other duties as well?
How does one become a police dog trainer?

Thanks in advance!

PattiTheWicked
11-20-2010, 12:54 AM
I just had a police officer with a snifferdog come to my kids' school, and I asked him some of these questions. Although it will vary by your area and the police department, here's what he told me.

Dogs are selected for training when they're young enough to be trainable, but old enough to show that they've got the right personality for the job.

The officer and his dog went through a three-month training program together with a trainer who works with dogs from all over the area, and not just from the one department. Prior to his police dog training, the dog lived with a host family who trained him on basic obedience, like sit, stay, come, etc., but the police dog trainer was someone who specifically works with police dogs. Apparently the trainer has another job as an administrator within the narcotics department of the police department in a nearby large city.

Since our police department has only the one dog, it's not practical for them to have someone who does just dog training -- however, if you have a large city, or an agency that utilizes a lot of dogs, it might be feasible to have someone who does just dog work.

backslashbaby
11-20-2010, 01:16 AM
I know a guy who trains cadaver dogs, and he is just former law enforcement. It's an amazing and amazingly important profession. If you want to google it, it's called HRD -- Human Remains Detection.

(If I were more consistent in my dog training and had the $$$ for courses and materials, I'd love to do it. We need more of them in this area.)

Canotila
11-20-2010, 03:58 AM
It varies a lot by location and what the dog is being trained for. Search and rescue, and cadaver detection dogs are frequently owned and trained by civilian volunteers who are under the management of the county sheriff. Same goes for tracking and evidence search dogs. The same dog will often be trained to do all of these jobs, but it's important to note they are different jobs with different training behind each one.

In Washington State drug sniffer dogs are specifically trained by training officers and then matched up with the K9 handler they will work with. They usually finish the last couple months of training with their future handler, so the human and dog learn to work as a team. A lot of handling is knowing how to read an individual dog's body language while it's working.

The dogs that run down suspects and bite them are a whole other kettle of fish. Honestly they can be a crapshoot. There are some exporters who send their less stable crap over here and it freaks me the heck out when those dogs end up being used as K9 officers. I had the pleasure of nearly getting my faced ripped off by a seriously unstable malinois a department was hoping could get certified for search and rescue in addition to his regular police work. Holy wow. That was not cool.

The dogs chasing suspects go through lengthy training and evaluation. A lot of dogs are washed out because they lack the nerve or drive to work in real life. The training given to handlers varies a lot too. Some K9 handlers only have a few months of finishing a dog in a facility with mentors and that's it. Others are extremely experienced, and handle most of the training from start to finish themselves. Most of these dogs are at least started by full time paid trainers that aren't officers.

My uncle trains the narcotics dogs in Washington. He's a police Lt. that works as a prison guard, and also in the detection dog training program.

If you want your character to be a civilian, there are kennels who breed working K9s and then raise, train, and sell dogs to civilian owners who want a protection dog and to police for work, depending on the individual dog and it's strengths.

maggi90w1
11-20-2010, 04:05 AM
Most of these dogs are at least started by full time paid trainers that aren't officers.
Can you tell me a little more about this process? Where are the dogs acquired? Where do they live? Who pays for them?

Carlene
11-20-2010, 04:15 AM
Call your local police department. Most of them have information officers who love to answer questions like yours. Tell them you're a writer and need the information for your next book.

I used to belong to Sisters in Crime and one of the speakers we had was a woman who trained dogs to find remains. They are trained with...corpse in a bottle! Honest. It was a fascinating evening and I learned a lot. For instance, dogs can detect remains under water! I can't remember all of it but it was sure interesting.

Carlene

maggi90w1
11-20-2010, 04:33 AM
Call your local police department. Most of them have information officers who love to answer questions like yours. Tell them you're a writer and need the information for your next book.
My novel doesn't takes place in my nick of the woods. I imagine the procedure might vary a lot from continent to continent.

Kitti
11-20-2010, 04:50 AM
Can you tell me a little more about this process? Where are the dogs acquired? Where do they live? Who pays for them?

I gather this is not the usual course of affairs, but one of my neighbors was a K-9 cop for decades. He raised several German Shepherds and only trained the ones with the right temperament. They lived in his garage (made over into a giant dog kennel). I assume that he received some funding from his department to help pay for them, but I don't know that it covered all his expenses. A few years ago, my local area had a huge fundraising drive to get money to buy all the K-9 dogs bulletproof vests, so the specialty equipment must be funded and provided for by the department.

Canotila
11-20-2010, 07:19 AM
Some training facilities are kennels that breed their own dogs. This way they have control over the health screening and temperaments of the dogs being produced.

Some have their dogs imported from Europe. This can be really good or bad depending on how honest the exporter is. Worst case scenario you can end up with a dog that has faked papers with fake health clearances and is a total nervous wreck. The malinois that tried to bite me was an import, but I don't know what he was like starting out. They are a nervy breed anyway, need a very skilled handler, and from what I saw his handler wasn't all that experienced so he might have just been mismanaged.

Most commonly used are German shepherd dogs. They aren't the best at anything, but they are good at everything and are forgiving of handler mistakes. Malinois are becoming more popular which is frankly a little terrifying. I haven't met that many K9 handlers who are sharp and experienced enough to handle a mal.

Best case scenario you can get a nice prospect to train. Most trainers who import will build a relationship with a specific kennel and use them exclusively, to prevent getting swindled by a broker. A lot of police departments will stay with the same kennel and trainers for their dogs once they find one that works. There are a lot out there who don't deliver everything they promise.

There are places that take donated dogs and puppies to train. This is mostly the programs with detection dogs, as their job is less mentally demanding than dogs trained to bite humans. They're also more flexible on breeds. The Washington drug detection dogs are mostly rescued labs.

Search and rescue, and tracking/evidence search type dogs can pretty much be any breed or mixed breed. They're often people's pets who get into it as a hobby, or someone will go out and look for specific traits regardless of breed.

How the dog is housed during training depends on the facility. Some will be kenneled, and some will come home with their trainers at night. A working K9 officer lives with his human handler. It's pretty common for the dogs to be adopted by their handlers when they retire too.

JulieHowe
11-20-2010, 08:04 AM
I'm looking for a career for one of my characters and I would like to make him some kind of dog trainer.
I was thinking police dog trainer, but I have no idea how the police trains dogs. I assume the trainers are part of the police force. Are the dog trainers only responsible for training dogs/ showing policeman how to train their dogs or do they have other duties as well?
How does one become a police dog trainer?

Thanks in advance!

I don't have the answer to your specific question, but I do know a little bit about how some dogs end up as police dogs. Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds and raises puppies from their own stock, and there are quite a few dogs that flunk out of Guide Dog school but have extraordinary talent in other areas. They have ended up as drug-sniffing, general K-9 and search-and-rescue dogs. Some of these dogs performed heroically when their handlers took them to Haiti to search for survivors after the earthquake in January. Here's a list of the GDB podcasts specific to the breeding, raising, and training of Guide Dogs.

http://www.guidedogs.com/site/PageServer?pagename=landing_podcast

StephanieFox
11-20-2010, 08:01 PM
I did a couple of ride-alongs with K-9 units for articles I wrote and noticed that K-9 officers have to wait several years until there's an opening in that department. Training the dog is important, but training the officer who partners with the dog is equal importance. Also, don't assume the dog will be a German shepherd. The Belgian Malinois is gaining popularity.

In Minneapolis, there's a separate building with some land and training equipment for the K-9 unit. There is a police officer trainer but a lot of the training is don by the dog's partner, both on the job and at the officer's home, where the dog lives.

One dog I rode with – a dog named Ned – would get excited and bark every time he saw a Crown Victoria automobile. I saw it ready to attack a bad guy and then sit down to let little kids pet him.

The training method for K-9 police dogs is different than sniffing dogs and search and rescue dogs, as are the temperment requirements. Search and rescue dogs are usually owned by civilians and trained by them through various search and rescue organizations. These dogs can be of any breed, but are often hunting dogs with good noses. (My bulldog could be none of these since her sense of smell isn't very good and if she doesn't want to do something, she probably won't.)

Canotila
11-21-2010, 05:30 AM
Maggi, I pm'd you some links to a local kennel that breeds and trains police dogs (the biting kind). Hopefully their website will have a lot of useful info for you, but don't be afraid to e-mail them with more detailed questions if you need answers.

BellaRush
11-28-2010, 08:17 PM
I worked for many years with a trainer who did Schutzhund work. Schutzhund trainers scoff at how poorly police dogs are trained, so you might want to do some research in that area. Your character could have a background in Schutzhund. ;) It's a sport that involves tracking, obedience and bite work, with the objective being a balance between the three and for competition, a dog must first pass a temperament test that is designed to weed out those dogs that could be a liability before they get into bite work.

maggi90w1
11-28-2010, 08:36 PM
I worked for many years with a trainer who did Schutzhund work. Schutzhund trainers scoff at how poorly police dogs are trained, so you might want to do some research in that area.
Funny. My research brought up the opposite. Policemen complaining how badly trained Schutzhund dogs are and that they almost never usable as police dogs and if they are they need excessive extra training.

BellaRush
11-28-2010, 11:09 PM
Police dog work doesn't require near the precision that competitive Schutzhund does. I was fortunate enough to be around people who were working high-scoring dogs - the sport was their life, basically! Schutzhund dogs probably just have too much obedience/control for the police. ;) :D

Fenika
11-28-2010, 11:45 PM
Did anyone mention trainers for seeing eye dogs / other assistance dogs? These are a specialty set, just like police dogs, and will get cut for the littlest training 'flaw'.

And your dog trainer could train regular pets and have puppy obedience +/- run a boarding kennel +/- breed her favorite working breeds on the side. But she's never going to get a chance to leave town if she does all that :D