When it comes to training a solid street worthy police canine, realistic, scenario based training is the key. Whether you’re going through a basic new handlers training course or conducting biweekly in-service training this holds true. Simply hiding training aids and searching for them or hiding a “bad guy” in the same old building does little to increase your dogs abilities on the street. Even your dog is smart enough to understand that this is that same building we used the last 12 times I searched for a man hiding from me. This same old ho-hum approach to training is to often the norm for most handlers. It does become difficult to add variety to our training after 2 or 3 years of handling our dog.
The key to keeping it “real” is a two part process. Part one is a no B.S. review of what went right and what went wrong on our K-9 calls for service since our last training day. Part two is setting up realistic, scenario based training that gives you the opportunity to train under the same circumstances as you were met with on that call as closely as possible.
Example; If you were dispatched to a armed robbery of a store and when you arrived 4-5 officers had arrived ahead of you and ran all over your scene looking for the suspect that fled on foot, your attempt to start a track might not have gone as well as you would have liked. In this situation, the next training day you have, you want to recreate that situation as closely as possible. You don’t need an actual store, just a small building such as a storage shed. Have 4 or 5 officers or friends wonder all around the building and then have one of them leave the scene. You then have the remaining individuals continue to wonder about the scene. After about 20-30 minutes you pull into the scene, get out and talk to the crowd as you would on the actual call. The next step would be to get your dog out and attempt to start the track. Try to do this without any assistance from your “crowd”. IF you get a start and successfully locate the one who left the scene, your dog will get better at “scent discrimination” or the ability to determine who is missing at the scene from what odor is still there.
Another realistic scenario type of training is in the area of vehicle narcotics training. How often do you pull into the local tow/impound yard and hide training aids on the vehicles available? Your dog becomes conditioned to the fact that they always finds something when we come to this place.
Try getting that same tow yard to give you the keys to a vehicle that is still road worthy. Hide your training aid in the vehicle door panel or gas cap cover as you normally would. Have one of your fellow officers pull out on to the street and drive through an area previously agreed on such as an industrial park where you are waiting. Pull in behind the vehicle and conduct a traffic stop. Do your normal driver encounter. You can then get your dog out and conduct the same search you would have in the tow yard. The obvious difference is that your dog sees this as an actual traffic stop.
BY conducting realistic, scenario based training you will increase your success rate on the streets and I would wager a bet that you will enjoy your canine training more too.
To often in our maintenance training we simply have a fellow handler lay us a track to run. This doesn’t even come close to the real situations such as the one noted above that we too often find ourselves in. If we limit the way we train and its not the way we have to play, our success on the street will also be limited.