Police dogs from Western Canada clamp down on bite training in Moose Jaw

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It was somewhat fitting that the former Wild Animal Park, which once the home of many majestic animals, was the setting Thursday morning for bite training for some of the most well-trained animals in Western Canada.

Police dogs and their police officer handlers learned some of the finer points of bite training with Calgary Police Service K9 Unit officer Ian Vernon. He was one of six instructors who helped 23 different K9 teams from Saanich and Vancouver B.C. all the way to Brandon, Man. and Saskatchewan. The teams were in for a few days of workshops just south of Moose Jaw at the Valley View Centre and former Wild Animal Park.

The K9 units do important police work, according to Const. Chad Scheske.

“The dog’s noses… allow us to catch, track down and apprehend people that normally we wouldn’t be able to,” said Const. Chad Scheske, who has worked with a dog for six years. “Whether that’s through tracking, a direct scent of the dog, drug detection… We can’t smell it but the dogs sure can. They’re trained that if it’s a person, find that fresh scent until they find that person. In the case of drugs, find that odour until they get close to it.”

Thursday at the Wild Animal Park, the dogs were dealing with bite development and exposure training.

“They’re putting a dog through obstacles and events that they may not normally see,” Scheske said. “If you expect your dog to work in an environment and you haven’t exposed them to it, likely it’s not going to happen.

When the human part of the K9 unit exposes the dogs to scenarios that are different, the dog will feel more comfortable when the time comes to use the training, Scheske said.

“The dogs in their mind are saying ‘I can do this or I’ve done this before, so I can carry on doing what I normally would do’,” said Scheske. “We can’t cover them all, but that’s why we do this stuff. When you put a dog into a brand new environment or a brand new situation, then he has to start thinking as opposed to he’s already trained to do it or work through it.”

The bite work that was done Thursday - with Vernon and/or Const. Aaron Woods in bite suits - helps the dogs focus on getting an area of the arm or the leg when they don’t get a grip initially. Later, they did obstacle work.  

Moose Jaw Police Service Const. Taylor Elder was one of the officers training a new dog, Viper, to serve in the near future. 

Organizations: Calgary Police Service K9 Unit, Valley View Centre

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Western Canada, Saanich Brandon Saskatchewan

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