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K-9 Spring Cleaning

The winter weather is nearly over, which should bring a spring cleaning.  As discussed in previous articles, we should be maintaining a clean, groomed and healthy canine, along with a clean canine vehicle.  But, we have to face reality: it can be a daunting task to keep up with in the winter.  I’m sure you did the best that you could.  It is bad during the winter, trying to keep everything clean, thanks to the tracking of snow, ice, road salt and/or cinder into the vehicle and having it all over your canine.  Now that in most areas of the country are having the snow melt off and creating mud, it seems that this few week period can be almost worse than the rest of the winter.

Although we take care of the daily grooming, and I’m sure you do an excellent job, it isn’t a bad idea to take your canine to a professional groomer.  I would recommend sometime in the next few weeks, or when you start noticing the spring shedding.  Professional groomers have all the proper tools for bathing, grooming, toe nail trimming, etc.  Most of our working dogs have a double coat, which helps keep them warm in the winter, but much of that double coat is shed for the rest of the year.  Although they will shed hair throughout the entire year, spring time is the worst of it.  Using the proper tools, such as shedding blades and combs to help the process along, will make for a cleaner home and cleaner vehicle.  Keeping up with your daily and weekly grooming practices will help, but it can be very labor intensive to get that shedding hair removed.  I do not doubt your abilities in grooming your partner, but why not have a professional do it? (Which would give you some free time to take care of other things, like a thorough cleaning of your cruiser.)

Cleaning your canine vehicle and keeping it clean is very important.  Keeping your vehicle clean is an ongoing process, but at times it can seem like a never ending process.  Canine vehicles vary across the country and the world, so the cleaning process is going to vary also.  Hopefully your agency has taken the canine program seriously and you have an actual canine containment unit within your vehicle.  If your agency hasn’t, I wish you luck in cleaning; it is a much more difficult process in my opinion.

All of the canine containment units that I have seen are either smooth plastic and/or aluminum construction.  Some of them have drain holes, allowing you to hose it out, but be cautious where that nozzle points.  You would hate to see thousands of dollars in electronics destroyed because you accidently sprayed from the rear canine area into the front and soaking the two-way radio, computer, radar and anything else you may have.  Here is my recommendation for cleaning the entire interior of the cruiser:

Start by turning off all electronics in the vehicle.  Use a stiff bristled brush such as a hand whisk broom on all floor areas, door panels, dashboard, center console and canine containment unit.  I say a hand whisk broom because it will loosen up dirt better than a soft bristle brush will.  You could also use the broom on the seats to brush away any loose dirt or hair, especially in the gap between the seat back and bottom. 

Now use a vacuum to suck up all the loose debris and use the vacuum on the seats; I usually use a shop vac.  Now that all the loose debris is gone, you need to disinfect.  This requires washing the floors, door panels, dashboard and canine containment unit with a germicidal detergent.  A germicidal detergent will disinfect, clean and deodorize.  You want to stay away from harsh chemicals such as bleach.  The detergent is simply mixed with water.  Whether you use an old rag (towel or t-shirt) or sponge to wipe everything down with the detergent, it’s up to you.  For most areas of the interior, you can get away with using just a damp rag or sponge, but for the floor, you may need it a little wetter.  Again, be very cautious around the electronics.  It is best that you use a cleaner designed for electronics.  I personally like to use compressed air cans and computer monitor wipes.

After cleaning the interior comes the exterior.  I’m sure everyone knows how to wash a car, so I won’t tell you how to do that, but there are a few things to remember: spray the undercarriage, engine compartment and wheel wells really good.  You want to remove as much of the road grime and salt as possible to extend the life of your vehicle.  Don’t forget to clean those windows, and emergency light bar if equipped.

I know not everyone enjoys cleaning the interior of the cars, but it is a necessary evil, especially for canine units.  Maintaining a clean and disinfected vehicle leads to have a healthy canine and less trips to the vet’s office for illnesses.

Plan your spring cleaning in advance.  Get your cleaning supplies together and make sure you have everything.  Drop off your canine along with a muzzle at the groomers.  Now you have a few hours available to do a thorough cleaning.  Head home, go to the motor pool or the local do-it-yourself carwash and get cleaning.  The safest place is probably the motor pool because it isn’t accessible to the public.  If  you choose a public location, even if it is your driveway, PLEASE have a firearm on you.  While cleaning your vehicle you will be vulnerable and potential target of opportunity for some scumbag criminal.  If possible, have your spouse or another officer there to watch your back.  Crime doesn’t stop just because you’re cleaning your car.

Happy cleaning and STAY SAFE!!!