K-9's Compete at Second Annual Calif. Event

Aug. 6, 2012
Thirty teams, each consisting of a dog and a handler, participated in the event. All the teams came from California agencies except one from Carson City, Nev.

Aug. 06--DOS PALOS -- The football field at Dos Palos High went to the dogs this weekend, although it was no Westminster Kennel Club or hoity-toity affair for posturing poodles.

The event was the Dos Palos Police Department's second annual K-9 Trial. Held on Friday and Saturday, the competition judged police dogs on their abilities to sniff and search for criminals and contraband.

Thirty teams, each consisting of a dog and a handler, participated in the event. All the teams came from California agencies, except one from Carson City, Nev. The event was sanctioned by the Western States Police Canine Association.

Dos Palos Police Chief Barry Mann organized the event with officer Joe Green and others at the department. The first day of the event was the narcotics and bomb detection competition. On Saturday, the dogs competed in the obedience, agility and protection competition.

Friday's portion of the competition was closed to the public, because of the confidential nature of the police work. Saturday's portion of the competition was open to everyone. Judges looked at several factors, including the handlers' ability to control the dog in stressful circumstances and call off the dog when fully engaged in a situation.

Competition judge and WSPCA President Ron Cloward said judges examined the level of control each handler had over the dog. Judges also looked at how the dogs performed in different environments. "So it will be a test of the dog's willingness to work with and listen to the handler, as well as exposure to the environmental tests," Cloward said.

Jon Holland, a police dispatcher, said nearly 30 vendors helped with sponsoring the event. Holland said K-9 officers diligently train their dogs for real-world situations, such as pursuing a fleeing suspect. "So they're constantly training with the dog, and this (trial) is a way to showcase the handlers' ability to train, and the handlers' ability to control the dog," he said.

The six judges scored four scenarios during the protection phase of competition. The scenarios were set up on a fenced-in portion of the football field and consisted of a decoy criminal in a bite suit. The competition also included obstacles, such as plastic tunnels or wading pools filled with water.

The decoy criminal would shout at the handling officer, or shoot a handgun loaded with blanks, to simulate a real-life scenario in the field. Then the handler would command the dog to stay or go after the decoy suspect.

West Sacramento Police K-9 handler Nick Barreiro, who competed with his Belgian Malinois partner, Ike, pointed out that a dog's primary advantage over humans is their strong sense of smell.

"Any dog's primary purpose on any police department is search," said Barreiro. "Our eyes are our primary sense; we look out here and we see millions of different colors, and we can process them all instantly because that's what we do. A dog is the same way; just sitting here he's smelling millions of different smells and he can process them all in his mind instantly because that's his primary sense."

Dos Palos City Councilwoman Mary Oney said while the dogs are "docile and social" with people, they're also highly trained and dedicated.

"This isn't like a horse show or a New York dog show, this is actually part of their training as law enforcement canines," Oney said. "It's amazing, they hit so hard, these dogs, and they're just so focused."

Copyright 2012 - Merced Sun-Star, Calif.

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