Making a good K9 Handler or Trainer

Making a good K9 Handler or Trainer


One of the things that make a good handler or trainer is the ability to identify or self-diagnose problems in training and deployment scenarios. Usually, this process takes years to develop. Unfortunately, administrators believe when you graduate from school, you now know everything about police canine. For a trainer, it is essentially the same thing; once you are made a trainer and gain certification, everyone thinks you know everything. So essentially, everyone, no matter how new or what title you have, is always on the hunt for information. So, how do you improve your knowledge, skills, and how do you know that the results are working?

There are many ways to train, deploy, and equip yourself with the right tools to do the job. Open your mind to all forms of information about deployments and properly training a dog and canine team. When I first started in police canine, there were not many resources available to me except the trainer who originally trained me. I started looking at training books, seminars, and different trainers for ideas. Among the things that I learned are that no one has the absolute answer. It's a combination of things put together to design a training program for the job you do at your Law Enforcement Agency. Trainers constantly look for improvements, testing as they sample new ideas, and rejecting or applying those in training.

You need to be able to evaluate the information received and have a plan to put that thought or idea into practice. Your entire career will involve evaluating new information, your dog, another handler's dog, or a group of dogs working. Understanding what your dog should look like at work, what the handler should be doing when working, and then the total picture of the team together. When a canine team is working, the dog shows their training, and when the dog makes a mistake, the handler shows their training by how they fix or ignore the issue. How does the team look together, are they in sync or all over the place.

Here is how I learned. I graduated with the same knowledge that you get, the basics. I began searching books, DVDs, the Internet, other handlers, my trainers, to get a broader view, and I started going to seminars. I also started judging regional certifications to learn how to evaluate, understanding what the dog should look like, and I also started understanding my mistakes. Next, I started evaluating fellow canine handlers and their dogs during deployment scenarios. Look at the dog work, are they doing it properly, and if not, what did the handler do to fix it.

Having your training validated is key to making sure you are on the right track. In certification, the validation comes with passing, knowing what mistakes were made so improvement can continue. In deployment situations, we ask the question did your dog complete the task at hand with the expected results.

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Comments on "Making a good K9 Handler or Trainer"

Comments 0-5 of 2

Melinda Ruopp - Friday, March 06, 2020

THis is good stuff. I don't care how much you think you know. Being around other handlers and trainers is always an opportunity to learn. If you close yourself off to this, you are missing the chance to collect another tool to put into your tool box. As you continue to grow and learn, you continue to add to that tool box. You may have tools in there from LONG ago that you think you will never use. You may have tools in there that you use every day! But regardless, locking that darn thing will not serve you well. I applaud those of you out there who are running training each and every week, throwing the kitchen sink at handlers and K9's in order to make them a better team. Making your training as realistic and street like that you can is the ticket. I call that ENVIRONMENTAL stress... Anything that makes that handler think, makes him/her nervous, etc, is a GOOD thing. Don't miss out on any opportunity that exists to throw something new at yourself or your dog.

WAYNE STEWART - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Good discussion. I can remember a group of us from R-3, back in the days, going to seminars and training quite often on our own dime or we didn't go. Me, Jim Matarese, Danny Page and some others. Times I wouldn't trade for anything. But learning from others from around the country, and at times from around the world, was important to the success of our partners and units. Of course when you had the one and only Mr. Cahill in your region you never wanted to embarrass yourself in his presence. When I started as a non-scoring judge at regional events I wondered why anyone thought I was qualified to be in that position and when I became a scoring judge I really did not want to screw things up for another team. It became readily apparent in no time that the USPCA ran on those willing to give up their time and weekends to learn how to best evaluate other teams so I decided to put my all into it, like so many before me and those still doing so today. Like many others within our organization already knew I needed to keep improving my own skill sets and then eventually help others learn how to do the same thing. This organization needs those willing to step forward to not only help run the organization in the administrative levels but also in the skills levels. Scenario Based Training started becoming a "big" thing later in my career and a group of us in Region 3 created training to help K9 teams perform better on the streets. I know this training has even advanced well beyond what we were doing in the early stages and I for one am impressed. Many in the USPCA have a level of skill that could benefit others and putting yourself out there as the experts you are will not only help our profession but will also increase your knowledge as a trainer of the greatest job in the LE profession. Keep up the good work all, Wayne

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