Vernon and North Okanagan News
From puppy to crime-fighting superdog
They’re loud, rambunctious, yappy, mouthy, they jump on everybody and did I mention pull like crazy at the leash?
Probably your pet dog nightmare, but it's exactly what RCMP K9 trainers look for in a pup. A pup that might grow up to become a tough police dog that will fight criminals, find drugs and protect their human partners daily as an RCMP K9.
“She’s sort of crazy, she’s got a lot of energy which is one of the traits they look for in a police dog,” explains RCMP 'Puppy Imprinter' Matt Taylor, about his, can’t-sit-still, 5-month-old student Frieda.
“They don’t really have any manners and you want them that way because they have to be able to climb on everyone and not be afraid to jump up on people…Everything you would do with your pet is everything we don’t do with them,” laughs Taylor.
The training of these dogs is extensive and begins right at birth, costing the RCMP a lot of money and the volunteer training officers a lot of time and effort.
“As an imprinter I will probably train three or four of these puppies, and if I continue to progress and the puppies progress, I will eventually keep one,” explains Fergi's trainer, Cst. Clay Fixsen.
Fixsen and Taylor are two of the three imprinters in the North Okanagan District.
Pups, Frieda and Fergi, live at home with their trainers for up to a year. It’s a big commitment with an emotional goodbye, but a rewarding one.
“You know, you get pretty attached to them. I have only had Fergi for two weeks and she is already like part of the family,” smiles Fixsen.
All RCMP German Shepherds are born and bred by the RCMP in Innisfail, Alberta.
Over the years the RCMP have streamlined the process and only bread proven bloodlines that work as top dogs, but even with their exclusive breeding, not every dog is cutout for the RCMP.
“There are high bench marks for them, some of them will go on to work in other areas, like a drug dog, or a search and rescue dog, . . . or she can become a mother to breed other puppies,” says Fixsen about Fergi, if she doesn’t make the cut.
“It doesn’t mean they are not a good working dog if they don’t make it, it just might not have that necessary aggression,” explains RCMP Spokesman Gord Molendyk.
Both Fixsen and Taylor will dedicate many years and thousands of hours training many little puppy protégés before they get their chance to train and keep one themselves to become an active RCMP K9 handler.
In the meantime both officers must focus on their puppy students, getting them ready to become crime-fighters.
“Their job is to imprint these dogs. The basics of tracking, criminal apprehension, familiarizing the dogs, socializing the dogs and the goal is to raise a confident dog who really develops these drives to enter training and then enter service,” says experienced dog handler Cst. Kevin Rutten.
As for the puppies that never get into the training program they are given away or sold to a long list of families wanting the purebreds.
In a continued display of their dedication both training constables are participating in this year’s Raise the Woof, a fundraiser for local animal rescue societies.
“The exciting part of it is these guys are gong to give us a silent auction item which will be one day training with them and their dog and you can bid on it,” boasted the Okanagan Humane Society’s Marti Giroux.
The winning bidder will get to spend a training day with the dogs, searching areas, searching for drugs and also seeing the attack process.
"It is an experience that doesn't happen too often and it is absolutely fantastic that Constable Mark Jones has agreed to do this for us," says Giroux.
"We did this last year and the lady who won the bid said it was one of the most wonderful experiences she has had!"
Raise the Woof is scheduled for November 23 at the Powerhouse Theatre and will feature a comedy show and silent auction.
Giroux says it is the major fundraiser for the year for the Okanagan Humane Society and HugABull.
If you are interested in attending the event click here for more information and tickets.
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