Happy New Year; welcome to 2014. It has become pretty common to make New Year’s resolutions. According to Wikipedia, “a New Year’s resolution is a secular tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day”. So, have you made a New Year’s resolution? Seeing how this is an article about canine’s, how could you apply a New Year’s resolution to your canine career? There are several ways.
First, I want to speak to the non-canine handlers. If you’re reading this, you probably want to be a canine handler, and may have even made a New Year’s resolution to become one. What are you doing to try and achieve that resolution? Are you sitting back and waiting on the next opening date for applications? There are some DO’s and DO NOT’s to becoming a handler. Sitting back waiting and doing nothing else is a DO NOT. You need to prepare yourself for the position, like talking to other handlers; learn what you can from them. Let them know you’re interested in being a handler, and ask if you can come to some of the training sessions, on your own time of course. Do as much reading as you can about police canines and being a handler. Educate yourself as much as you can, so when a position comes available, you are well prepared for not only filling out that application, but also the interview process. One last thing, stay in and/or get in better physical condition. For more information, read “Selecting the Better K9 Handler”.
Now, what about those that have become handlers, what resolutions have you made? There are minimum standards to become certified and maintain certification. But why settle for minimum standards? Why not strive to get as high of a score if not a perfect score on your next re-certification test? When or if you have achieved high scores, how about competing in various canine competitions? Placing in the top three at regional, state or national competitions is quite an accomplishment. For more information read, “The Value of Police K9 Competition”.
How about improving public perception and support? What kind of relationship does your canine division have with the public? No matter how good it is, it can always get better. As police officers and as canine handlers, the majority of our public contact is with the criminal element. Obviously we are not going to get support from them, as far as they are concerned, they would be better off if you didn’t exist. But, the majority of the population is law abiding, and it is important to have their support. Most of what they see of canine operations is in the media, which we all know they aren’t our friend, usually. One of the best ways to show off the canine division is through public demonstrations. The demonstrations should be done once or twice a year, at the police training grounds or a public park. Make it inviting and get the media involved. But make sure when you are doing these demonstrations that you don’t focus on the bite; that is where most of our negative publicity comes from. The demonstrations need to be diverse, include searches for narcotics, explosives, lost articles, people tracking. Besides the demonstrations, make time for the public to meet the canines and handlers, which gives them a chance to ask questions and possibly give you praise. Read, “Canine Socialization is Important”, for more information about demonstrations. Another great place to do demonstrations is at the local high school. Doing so can accomplish several things. Many high school kids dislike us because they think we are invading their privacy by searching lockers. Here is another chance to show and explain what we do and why we do it. Although they are young, this might also spark the interest in some of them to take up a career in law enforcement.