Give a wide berth to working dogs
Working dogs can be police dogs (K9s), service dogs, search and rescue dogs, or even Seeing Eye dogs. Each type of working dog goes through special training for its role. These dogs have a very special bond with their human partners.
Deputy Chad Beasley, with the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, and his K9 partner, Arco, have worked closely with veterinarians at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine for the past two year on projects to promote the health and safety of working dogs. They participated in the making of a training video to demonstrate how handlers can deliver the reversal agent for opioids to the dogs in the unfortunate event that a dog is exposed to the drug in the line of duty. They have helped get the word out about a recent change to Illinois law that allows working dogs that have been injured to be transported for veterinary care in a human ambulance when the ambulance is not required for a human patient.
Recently, Deputy Beasley stopped by the Veterinary Teaching Hospital when he was off duty to share some insights into his partner’s background and work life.
Police Dogs Need Special Training
“Arco is a 6-year-old Dutch shepherd who has been trained to recognize seven different narcotic scents and can also track people via scent,” Deputy Beasley explains. When Arco was a puppy, he was enrolled in a police dog training program for about a year. There he learned to recognize certain narcotic scents and alert when he finds them. Arco’s alert can be an intense sit and stare at the location of the object, or he may bark.
“Our goal as a team is to find these narcotics and get them off the street,” Deputy Beasley says. “This makes for a safer community.” Deputy Beasley and Arco can be called into a scene where narcotics are suspected. This can be a car, a building, a house, or even an open field. Depending on the location, Deputy Beasley will ‘run’ Arco around the area of the suspected narcotic location and to see whether Arc alerts.Arco enjoys his job and his training, which are designed to be a positive experience that feels like a game to him. When he works hard and does his job, he will receive his favorite toy, a piece of firehose to play with! It is important that Arco stays fresh on the skills he needs to do his job, so he does training exercises every day.
“We will take some downtime to work on a certain skill or simulate a situation for him to stay sharp,” says Deputy Beasley. Arco will practice obedience, such as listening to his handler and following commands, or work with narcotic training aids to find and then alert his handler.
One Extraordinary Pup
Arco is an extremely strong, hardworking, and smart canine. He even knows another language! Arco was originally trained as a puppy in the Dutch language.
“A myth that exists about police dogs being trained in another language is that its purpose is to derail the ‘bad guys’ from telling the dog to stop, but this isn’t really true,” Deputy Beasley explains. Instead, it is just because that is the language he was trained in, so it is easier for the canine to continue commands in that language than try to learn English. The K9 will listen to its handler and not a stranger.
“Arco really is just like a part of the family” Deputy Beasley says. When Arco isn’t on the job, he lives with Deputy Beasley and his family and has his own doghouse.
What the Public Should Know
It is important for the public to give a wide berth to working dogs when they are on the job. Never try to pet them. When working dogs are wearing an identifier that denotes their job, such as a vest or special collar, people should have no trouble spotting them. But even if the animal does not have a uniform on, the handler will. In these cases, Deputy Beasley suggests that the public use common sense and not approach a dog or handler. The team needs to remain focused on their task.
Luckily many working dogs and their handlers make time to educate the public about their roles.
“We often do demonstrations as an outreach event to the community,” Deputy Beasley says. These offer great opportunities for the public to ask questions about Arco and other police dogs and learn about the amazing things these canines can do!
“K9 police dogs sometimes have a reputation for being vicious or scary, but they aren’t,” Deputy Beasley explains. “Our K9 unit is a tremendous asset to the department and keeps the community safe.”
Text and photos by Beth Mueller