A Dog Story: Dakota the police dog helps find narcotics, to keep kids safe.
Perry Police Officer Clay Leonard, a four-year veteran of the department, first met Dakota, a one-and-a-half year old German Shepherd, at Midwest K-9. It is a Des Moines company run by Polk County Narcotics Detective Dennis George, who takes and trains rescue dogs. The fact that George uses rescue dogs was a huge selling point to Officer Leonard and Perry Police Chief Dan Brickner.
George had six or seven dogs, all labs, available when Leonard first visited. After gauging Leonard’s attitude and demeanor with the dogs, George decided to bring out Dakota. The two developed an immediate rapport.
Dakota is now Perry’s newest K-9 officer. Dakota and Leonard, her handler, are certified in drug detection and will work together to help make Perry a drug-free community.
Dakota made a great first impression when she met the citizens she will be protecting:
The department plans to start a program with Perry’s schools to bring Dakota to visit the students. The hope is that her bright eyes, lolling tongue and friendly demeanor will help deter children from becoming drug users. Says Leonard:
Dakota is a passive alert dog, as opposed to an aggressive alert dog. The difference is that aggressive alert dogs bite and scratch at the area when they catch the scent of a narcotic. Passive alert dogs will sit and stare at the location of the scent. Brickner said aggressive alert dogs can cause damage to property that the department would be liable for; plus, if the dog bites and ingests a dangerous drug, it could kill them.
All of Dakota’s training deals with positive reinforcement. She is always rewarded for finding dope (a towel soaked in the scent of a particular narcotic) and those rewards will continue when she is on active duty in the form of a chew toy or tennis ball. “They know what their reward is…and that’s their ultimate goal,” Leonard said.
Dogs are extremely sensitive to the tone of a person’s voice, so just a stern command will be enough to get Dakota to pay attention. Leonard never yells at her or strikes her – or any dog. Dakota lives to please. It is her greatest desire to earn praise from her handler and receive her reward for a job well done.
Story and photo by Laura Pieper, Managing Editor, The Perry Chief.
Here’s an interesting video from YouTube on police dog training, from EFPlighting: