Proper maintenance of all harnesses and leads is also important.
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Keeping the in-car kennel clean daily is vital!
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It doesn't take a lot to maintain your dog's professional appearance.
Photo credit: Steven Forgues
Taking care of your canine partner is easy right? What could be so hard about feeding, bathing, brushing, clipping nails, etc., etc., etc.? It really isn’t that hard if you keep on top of it. Let’s take a look at what is and should be involved.
Having a canine as a partner isn’t exactly like having a regular pet. You and your partner are in the public eye, so if you and your partner look terrible, the public is going to look down upon you and your agency. You and your partner must represent the agency in a professional manner.
Feeding your partner is simple enough… or is it? Typically you should be feeding your partner a specific amount two or three times a day. You shouldn’t be putting 10 cups worth of food down and expect your partner to have self-control. Generally each feeding should be a cup or two of food, but that all depends on your partner, which you will need to determine. If we eat too much, we become sluggish. The same is true of your canine. Anyone that is involved with the canine unit should know about bloat, so I won’t get into it, but keep it in mind when feeding. When is feeding time in relation to your work schedule? It is recommended by many that you don’t feed your canine within an hour before or after strenuous activity. That being said, you should be feeding your partner at least one hour before your shift and at least one hour after shift depending on what activities you were involved in. If it comes down to it, you could feed during the shift, but I would recommend a much smaller portion.
Your partner obviously will need to do its business multiple times throughout the day and shift. I’m sure he or she will let you know when they need to, but you should also be able to control when they do. You don’t need to be on a crime scene and have your partner assume the position, if you know what I mean. Having your partner trained to do its business on command will be more convenient for you and could save you some embarrassment.
Maintaining the cleanliness of your patrol vehicle should be on-going. At a minimum, you should be sweeping and wiping down the kennel daily, and washing it out as needed. Although your partner may never be in any other area of the car but the kennel, his or her hair will be everywhere. Vacuum the interior of the car daily if needed to stay on top of it. Keep an air freshener/deodorant in the vehicle to help mask any unpleasant smells. If you and your partner have gotten dirty or muddy, make sure you give your car a very thorough cleaning. If you fail to do so, you are asking for odor problems and creating ideal breeding grounds for fleas and ticks.
I’ve been in some cruisers that you wouldn’t even know was K9, other than the built-in kennel. I have also been in one that was used for K9 and years later it still smelled and made me sick to my stomach. It is much easier to keep a cruiser smelling good than to try and get rid of odor that has built up over several years. Besides keeping the inside clean, you should also keep the exterior clean as well. If the public always sees a dirty cruiser, what is their perception of you going to be? Probably not so good.
Something that can help with maintaining the cleanliness of the cruiser is brushing daily and bathing your partner on a regular basis. I know my German Shepherd sheds like there is no tomorrow. With regular brushing, you can assist in getting rid of some of the loose hair. Also, giving your partner baths on a regular basis will help get rid of loose hair and help maintain a healthy coat. If your partner has gotten dirty during the shift, then give it a bath or at minimum a hose down; but be cautious of hyperthermia during the winter months.
Clipping the nails is fairly simple, but some people don’t feel comfortable doing it or don’t know how much to clip off. Consult with a competent groomer or your veterinarian on how to do it properly. It will save the agency a lot of money if you do it. Some canines won’t need their nails trimmed very often, while others will. With some dogs, the nails will get worn down just with normal activity on hard surfaces. Whatever the circumstance, keep an eye on them and trim as needed. If they grow too long they can cause discomfort and possibly require a trip to the groomer or veterinarian to be trimmed.
Let’s discuss leads and harnesses for a moment. All of your leads (nylon, leather or some other material) should be in good operational condition. If they have any cuts in them that could diminish the strength, they should be discarded and replaced. They should also be clean, not just for appearance but to extend the life of the material. The same goes for harnesses: whether they are tracking, patrol or a ballistic vest/harness, they should be kept clean and checked for cuts, tears and abrasions. As you would with your uniform, if any of the leads or harnesses are faded or aged, consider replacing them.