FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 14, 2011 –
Dogs practice climbing over & around obstacles — and taking on the ‘bad guys’ –
By Steve Marschke
Police dog teams from the region celebrated the opening of a new West Sacramento K9 agility training course on Nov. 30 with a demonstration of their dogs’ skills.
The dog training park is at a fenced, grassy facility on Oak Street, near Home Depot. And it features refurbished equipment largely thanks to the Wyotech auto repair trade school in town, which turned the needed metalwork into something of a class project.
Officer Roger Kinney – partner of “Zar,” the Dutch shepherd – said the whole project cost upward of $20,000, and took a lot longer than he expected.
“There are 14 pieces of equipment, including ladder-climb, wall jumps, a teeter-totter to test balance, culverts to walk through, barrels to jump over – these are things similar to what these dogs may encounter on the street,” said Kinney. “We put down 6,000 square feet of sod, and it’s fenced, with cameras around. I started this in October of 2010 and thought it would take two months to do, but it took 13 months.”
The property belongs to the city (part of a public works operation) and it used to be a grassy field with old K9 training equipment on it. The land was graded and sodded, with sprinklers and Trex decking material added where needed. The old equipment was disassembled, rebuilt, sandblasted and powdercoated.
“We didn’t skimp on anything,” said Kinney. “It’s the nicest agility course in the whole area. When I’m retired as a dog handler, it will still be going strong.”
Who will maintain the training facility?
“The field is maintained by the Department of Probation – people arrested for drunk driving and so forth come out once every couple of weeks and mow it and keep it nice.”
Kinney and Zar are one of two K9 teams currently on duty in West Sacramento. The other team is made up of Officer Dave Stallions and “Champ” – who are scheduled to cycle out of K9 duty to be replaced by Officer Nick Ferrero and a dog yet to be selected.
“We go to any calls of violence, whenever a K9 is on duty,” explained Kinney. “Certainly, we go to any call with a weapon involved. The dogs can locate somebody who is hiding, and they can run very fast if the suspect decides to flee that way. I live in West Sacramento, so if something happens (when I’m off-duty) I can usually be anywhere in the city with Zar in around ten minutes.”
“When a suspect is hiding, we make an announcement when we show up,” added Kinney. “We’ll say ‘Police K9 is here – come out now or get bit.’ Only about five to ten percent of the people decide to get bit by a dog. Fully 90 or 95 percent that are hiding will come out and surrender.”
Zar – who happens to be a mild-mannered socialite when not chasing a bad guy – his trained for other duties, as well.
Zar will search houses and cars to find drugs,” added Kinney. “He can also locate evidence – if somebody tosses a gun in the bushes, he can look for that.”
It was apparent watching work at the demonstration on Nov. 30 that Zar was having fun, going after a “suspect” in a padded suit with joy, a wagging tail, and obvious relish.
“It is absolutely a game to them,” said Kinney. “But Zar does know the difference between work and play. I would say he just gets more excited when it’s real. Once, he had a guy beat him really bad with a stick, opening a wound on his head. I had to take him to the vet – but Zar’s tail was still wagging, as if to say, ‘I’m OK!’”
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