Around 100 police K-9 teams from around the country are in central Iowa this week to determine who has the “top dog.” The 2009 United States Police Canine Association’s National Trials opened Monday in West Des Moines. Office Brent Kock with the West Des Moines Police Department says the dogs and handlers are tested in activities that are similar to what they might encounter on the job.
“Which includes tracking, criminal apprehension…if you get in car or foot chases and the dog is deployed, the dog will know which person to go after and how to detain the person until officers can get there,” Kock said. That means the dogs need to show skill in picking up scents, climbing ladders and jumping fences.
“Those are all things that we encounter when we’re out going through back yards. When somebody is jumping over fences, we don’t want to stop and lift the dog up over every fence that we come to,” Kock said. “So, you want the dog to be able to jump over the fence, pick up the scent again and keep going. We try and keep it as realistic as possible with all of our testing.” When West Des Moines added a K-9 team to its force, Kock spent six weeks at a training school in Indiana and now handles a dog named Ronnie. Like most police K-9 dogs, Ronnie’s a German Shepherd.
“They’re great around people. They have a very good nose, not necessarily the best nose out of any dog, but they’re good at tracking. They’re strong dogs, so they can apprehend people and you don’t have to worry about too many injuries,” Kock said. This week’s competition will conclude with a free public demonstration from 6:00 to 7:30 Thursday night at Principal Park in Des Moines.