In our careers as law enforcement professionals, we are expected to be aware of the latest and greatest techniques used in crime fighting.  How much training you get may depend on your agencies training budget or your willingness to spend your own money on something you feel is important to you.  But in the K9 world, things are a little different.  We are pretty mandated by the courts to the industry standards of ongoing maintenance training.  You will train, you don’t have a choice.  The reality is you should want to train because you want to be the most effective K9 team you can be.  But are you training for reality or just going through the motions?

Our K9 partners are pretty smart animals.  When they see the six other K9 vehicles all gathered together, I’m pretty sure they are well aware that training is about to start.  But is that how it happens in the “real world”?  Do I have to get a radio call to my local little league field for a guy wearing a puffy suit in center field acting crazy?  Just what are we training for?

Law enforcement K9 training in real world scenariosNow there is a difference in dog training and K9 team training.  Dog training is training that is focused solely on the dog and for the benefit of the dog.  Things like civil agitation, obedience, and pretty much any other non-scenario based training could be consider “dog training” although this is where the handler learns how to react to their K9 partner, which is applied to the scenario training and “real world”  deployments.  I think we can all agree the worst time to try something new is during an actual deployment, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice because no two incidents are exactly the same and these incidents are constantly evolving based on suspect behavior.

To be cliché – think outside of the box.  Consider simulated radio calls as part of your training. Don’t gather in a group to start training all the time.  Start off with a simulated radio call or if you have the area to do it – maybe training starts with a pursuit and bail out.

Challenge your K9 teams by doing a training scenario during their actual shift.  Give them the tools to perform effectively in the field by doing your best to make them ready for a real world.  Do you have gunfire training? Do your K9 teams have to qualify with their duty weapons while maintaining control over their dog? Do you conduct decision based  scenario training to keep your K9 teams up sharp?  What about Simunitions or similar types of shooting?  And the current trend in law enforcement circles – active shooter training – are you ready for that type of incident?

Of course we need to constantly build up and reinforce the basics, but if you aren’t doing anything to advance your K9 teams aren’t you just going through the motions? Set the bar high and challenge your teams.  Certification standards are the MINIMUM level at which our K9 teams operate at, not the highest.  Train like you fight, fight like you train. The “real world” is the arena we work in so train for it.

Authored by: Pete Stevens
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