Series begins with standard Certification areas that in my opinion should be pulled due to the fact they mirror the Sport Dog mentality. They are the most unrealistic scenarios that a canine team would experience on the street. Not only are these areas difficult for trainers to train, but also for handlers to keep sustainment training in these areas without causing conflict and affecting other areas of training.
Define Static – lacking in movement, action, or change, especially in a way viewed as undesirable or uninteresting
CONTROL IN A FIELD – In police canine certifications the contents below are judged in an open field. Much like sport dog trials overseas. With the crowd watching, well, it is a sport dog show.
OBEDIENCE – Canine teams are judged on sitting properly, walking properly, stay properly and recall to a heel properly, all the while handlers are not required to be in full uniform. Typically, the canine is off-leash during this trial. I understand the theory for an obedience foundation, but do you honestly believe being judged and passing obedience trials in a static environment only, is a realistic indicator that your canine’s obedience is solid in the middle of fast paced real world scenarios/chaos?
RECALL – Sending canine to apprehend a subject, subject then puts hands up while canine is in full sprint to bite subject (sport dog influence). This is not practical. In real deployments things happen fast and it is unrealistic for a canine handler to recall their canine if suspect just decides to give up, unless distance plays a roll, but if that’s the case the handler shouldn’t have released their canine anyway.
BARK and HOLD/TRANSPORT – Optional in some certifications, mandatory in others. Found in the RECALL category. The most impractical concept for a working canine. Usually it consists of subject not moving when canine approaches and canine is expected to start barking until subject tries to run. I believe canines should never be put in a position or expected to make a choice. This is equivalent to allowing a three year old child to guide your life.
COURAGE TEST – I understand the courage concept in this area. However, if courage is to be judged, the canine should be in a muzzle. A muzzle takes the equipment out and reveals the true motivation of a canine’s action.
GUNFIRE – Gunfire is judged, but again it is not realistic. I have witnessed numerous handlers who have gone through my facility with their canines engaging the handler due to utilizing gunfire during a building search (more practical than in a field). I’ve also seen canines not actually engage a suited decoy inside a building, yet all have passed standard certification…
VEHICLE BAILOUTS – (door popper) – In standard certifications, the canine jumps out of vehicle and chooses a subject on the run. The door popper has its advantage in one area, handler protection. That being said, if required in certification, the canine should be in a muzzle. Again, no equipment involved reveals true intent of canine’s action. At no time should canine exit vehicle on its own accord unless in an emergency.
BUILDING SEARCHES – In typical certification, a handler sends their canine into a building and waits at the entrance for canine to find subject. This is a safety issue for the canine in a real world situation. Handlers should be involved in building searches. Before sending canine off-leash, the handler should clear as much of the room(s) as possible as a team and get a foothold in the targeted building. By just releasing a canine into a house or building allows the canine to dictate flow, this creates a safety issue for them both resulting in failure.
AREA SEARCHES (OFF-LEAD) – As of yet, I have not had a handler tell me of a time when an area search was conducted off-leash in a real world situation. Why is that? Because it is a safety issue for all involved. Yet off-leash area searches are conducted for certification in controlled environments only. Why?
ELECTRIC COLLAR DEVICE – Every police working canine handler I have come in contact with in my career has a remote electric collar device on their canine while working and are only using the electric portion for bite release, “just in case my canine doesn’t listen to me”, I’m told. This is 180 degrees from how it should be used. Newsletter (January 2017) details electric collar device usage for working canines. It’s not just for shock. Canine handlers should be judged on how effectively they utilize the device during certification since all handlers use one, and in most cases it’s an agency requirement.
The next blog will show videos of each area and explain in detail the issues I’ve talked about above.