Cool. Composed. Alert. These superb canines, known as police patrol dogs are seen nowadays patrolling shopping malls, airports, and local events in the community. They serve as forewarnings of an impending violence or blast that may put us in danger. Using their keen sense of smell which is seven times as sensitive as ours, they are on the wait for any situation that may put their best-friend species’ safety at risk. We know they are there to protect us; but do we really know who they are and what they had to go through to be awarded the honor of guarding us?
It all starts when they are still puppies. A puppy’s curiosity, obedience, temperament, and reaction to people and loud noises are monitored and assessed by a handler whom the puppy will work with throughout his ‘police career’. The handler, whom the dog should always report to or seek approval from must gain the full trust of the dog. He must be consistent in handling and training for steady and stable instructions.
Once a candidate dog is selected, training starts at 1 – 1 ½ year old. Preliminary training includes learning the simple commands such as sit, stay, fetch and roll over. Rewards and punishment must be given within 3 seconds after doing or not doing the command. Rewards include treats, petting and reinforcements words such as “Good dog!” and “Very good!”. If the dog doesn’t follow, a stern “NO!” is said followed by isolation on one corner. For bomb sniffing dogs, discrimination trainings are done for identification of the different explosive components placed in jars during the initial phase and eventually in sealed packages, bags, and boxes during the later stages of training. These are then followed by room search courses where different intensities of odors are differentiated from non-explosive smelling substances. According to handlers, black power, RDX and TNT are the most difficult to detect by dogs since they don’t smell strong. These substances are used in the advanced stage of training where they are hidden under concealments as the difficulty level increases. Furthermore, a dog is trained to exhibit a ‘sit’ position when it has detected an explosive inside a test container, followed by a series of more containers to be inspected. Once a ‘false sit’ was exhibited, a resounding and clear “No!” must be said and the course is repeated from the start. The training starts with a quiet room with no strong winds and currents, but eventually, as the dog passes the various phases of training, distractions – noises or confusing odors are employed. After completion of the training, these dogs are given police honors and when killed on duty, given a full service funeral.
The dog is truly man’s best-friend, whether for companionship or security, they are beings we can rely on. They can be more than a just a pet, friend and assistant to us. They are animals which are equipped to protect us and worthy to be trusted – even with our very lives.