Departments Resume Fitness Testing for K-9s and Handlers


 

Fred, a police K-9 dog from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, trains and participates in an intense physical fitness test two times a year.

“He almost took my arm off,” Lt. Kurt Schiappacasse said, referring to training sessions where he has to act as a “suspect” and have Fred viciously attack him. “He’s intensely strong.”

Fred is a three-year-old Belgian Malinois and competes twice a year in the department’s fitness test with his handler, Deputy Sean Urban.

In April, Fred and two other K-9s, Karn and Argo, along with their handlers, Urban, Deputy Rick Houk, and Cpl. Gerrod Visel, went to a field for extreme fitness testing.

“These dogs are high-energy, all-start athletes,” Lt. Michael Marocco said. “They are multi-purpose dogs trained in tracking, criminal apprehension and drug detection.”

MLive.com reports that the fitness test was one of three certification exercises the K-9s and their handlers have to complete every single year. The other tests involved in the certification process include agility, tracking and biting work, and scent work.

Marocco said the Sheriff’s office certifies their K-9 units as highly as possible.

In 2012, there were approximately 780,000 police officers in the United States, but not all of them are qualified to handle these K-9s.

The Nassau County Police Department selected its newest group of rookie K-9s this week. Newsday reports that 11 elite German shepherds went through rigorous testing with police trainers to become selected as K-9s.

The testing that is done with the dogs includes narcotics work, physical aggression, arson duties, bomb work, and more.

“They are not pets,” Marocco said, referring back to Fred, Argo, and Karn.

The testing for these K-9s begins with the handlers doing pushups, squats, and sit-ups as the dogs lie nearby.

A smoke bomb is then lit while several gunshots from shotguns and pistols are heard to distract the participants.

The handlers place their dogs on their shoulders and run through the smoke and into the woods for more than a mile.

After that the dogs take part in an apprehension test, which requires them to chase, attack, and apprehend suspects in full protective gear.

After these successful tasks, “the test showed the handlers and dogs are physically fit,” Urban said.

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