By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
A special breed of German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois jumped, sniffed, searched and obeyed commands at the United States Police Canine Association Region 13 Trials June 25-26 at Fieldstone Park in Franklin.
These adept dogs worked to gain USPCA certification as well as competed for a few trophies for mastery during the trials. Head judge Captain Mark McMurray of the Huntsville, Ala., Police Department led the trials accompanied by five judges as well as about five judges in training. Dogs were judged on agility, obedience, box searches and bite work.
“This isn’t a chore for the dogs,” said Deputy Mike Grandy, K-9 Unit with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. “This is fun for them. They are wagging their tails and enjoying themselves.”
The WCSO’s K-9 Unit has been in existence since 2003 and currently has three canines working for the force. Gunner, handled by Corporal Debbie Rogers, and Lexer, handled by Grandy competed in the two-day event. Gunner received accolades earlier this year when he uncovered the highest street value of marijuana in the history of the Sheriff’s department. Franklin Police Department Officer Brett Spivy and his dog, Axel, also participated in the trials. Both departments have received many awards and recognitions on regional and national levels for their K-9 Units throughout the years.
At the conclusion of the regional trials Wednesday afternoon, Lexer and Grandy placed third overall, while Axel and Spivy placed first in six categories including first place overall.
Police dogs for K-9 Units in Williamson County and Franklin are recruited from overseas – usually Germany – where dogs are specially bred for the difficult task of being put into service.
“They have stricter quality control over there,” Grandy said.
The dogs’ handlers often give verbal commands in German or sometimes Dutch, McMurray said, which makes it less likely that the dogs can be controlled by others.
“The dogs are not bred for appearances unlike, show dogs,” McMurray said. “They are bred for their drive to fetch, hunt and fight. All markings and colors on the dogs are mixed.”
Most dogs begin their training before they reach 1.5 years old, which is the “perfect time,” according to McMurray.
Dogs undergo extensive training that lasts for about 16 weeks in which they work five days a week for about eight hours as well as participate in special professional development exercises twice a month including narcotics training.
The expert law enforcement canines usually serve for about seven years before retiring in which the handler then assumes care-giving responsibilities. “They are a part of the family,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sharon Puckett said. “The dogs are happy to serve during the time they are with the Sheriff’s Office. They love their job.”
During a trial exercise, one by one, the canines searched a half-dozen boxes spread across a field, with one box containing a live human. Dogs sniffed the boxes in search of the mock suspect.
It didn’t take Grandy’s dog, Lexer, long to pick out the “hot [human-scented] box.” With a sharp, focused bark, Lexer alerted his master to the presence of the live person hiding in the box.
“Good boy. Good boy,” Grandy said, patting his dog firmly on its back– a form of praise understood in any language.
Posted on: 6/26/2013