Fourteen Belgian Malinois K-9s and human police officers reported this week for yearly recertification with the Kansas Police Dog Association. While the humans looked at it as work, the dogs just enjoyed it as play.
The week involves practical scenarios, problem solving, training and team certification.
Brian Dougherty has been the K9 officer for the Great Bend Police Department with his Malinois Chester since 2006 and is in charge of the event.
“We work like every other cop, we just have a dog,” said Dougherty, who is also president of the KPDA. “This is all play to the dog.”
The K-9s are all Malinois, a breed which has grown in popularity in the enforcement field for various reasons including its short hair and coloring, which keeps it cooler on hot days. They are bred to be working dogs.
They weigh about 65 pounds. The Malinois “have want and desire to work,” said Dougherty. Most of them are imported from Holland and overseas, although Chester came from a kennel in the U.S.
Chester is a dual purpose dog, trained in apprehension, narcotics, tracking and evidence recovery.
“Everybody has Malinois,” said Dougherty. “They are a high strung dog. Their health tends to be better than the German Shepherd.
“Part of their job is to protect us,” said Dougherty. “If we are getting attacked, the dog will bite. They are not aggressive until they are told to be.”
They came from across the state to Great Bend, including Leawood, El Dorado, Andover, Augusta, Rush County, Elwood, the Kansas Dept. of Corrections, Franklin County, Barton County and Great Bend.
While the dogs undergo a substantial amount of training prior to becoming police dogs, they are recertified each year with the KPDA. Even the officer is trained for 10 weeks prior to receiving a dog.
All of the officers will spend 2-3 days on recertification, and the rest of this week in training.
The recertification process is judged. The judges came from Joplin, Mo. and Raytown, Mo. If the dog fails certification, they have to go back for more training.
Dougherty described what life is like with Chester. Although he lives with Dougherty, he is not a family pet.
“They don’t get socialized with the family,” said Dougherty. A dog lover, Dougherty has other dogs that are pets.
On his days off, the Chester is taken out of the kennel and exercised. Also different from pets, the K-9 is not given food as a reward, only praise.
Aaron Conaway is the Barton County K9 officer.