Quad-City Creatures By Heidi Dahms Foster, Prescott Valley, Arizona A local blog all about pets and pet activities in the quad-city area.PV, Prescott and beyond.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
High play drive one ingredient for successful police dogs - and hyper family dogs!
Heidi Dahms Foster
Prescott Valley police dogs Ike and Joey demonstrate their intensity at work during this spring's Bark in the Park. Bottom, Jerry the Aussie has the same high play drive - he just directs it toward fun things like agility!
Dog lovers have a treat in store next week, July 13-16, 2009, as the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association brings its annual conference to Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Nearly 100 dog/handler teams will participate, and on Tuesday, July 14, the best teams in the state will present a free demonstration for the public.
Doors open at 4 p.m. for people to meet the dogs and their handlers, and have photos taken with them if they would like. That may seem kind of warm and fuzzy for police dogs, but these dogs are warm and fuzzy, albeit with an incredibly high play drive. Prescott Valley Police K-9 Officer Dave McNally brought his Belgian Malinois, Ike, into my office for a visit today, and the big, shiny dog came around the desk, leaned into me, showed me all his pretty white teeth in a big dog smile, and begged for an ear scratch. Then he quickly found the trash can and checked out the scent of my lunchtime sandwich.
PVPD K-9 Sgt. Art Askew said that when these dogs are working, you don't want to mess with them. But when they are off work, they are not "attack dogs," as many people think. The dogs live in the officers' homes with their families, and they are loyal family pets. I doubt if they're restful, however!
My husband and I have a very high play drive Australian Shepherd, Jerry, who lives for anything that squeaks. Jerry will do anything for that squeaky, which is how the police dogs train. Their reward is their toy.
PVPD K-9 Officer Paul Hines "Joey" loves his toy, and he'll try to con you into a game. When I went to photograph the PV K-9's recently, Joey sidled up to me with his canvas toy, and shoved it into my hand, leaning on me and begging for a game. I reached for the toy, and quick as lightning, he snatched it away. He kept coming back to tease me, but I never got the toy! The only person that can get Joey to give it up is Paul!
To give you an idea how intense this drive is, I'll tell you a story about Jerry. I was competing in an obedience trial in Phoenix, and our show ring was set up about a half a football field away from the photographer. The judge asked me to put Jerry on a "stand for examination," in which the handler places the dog on a stand, tells it to stay, and walks away. The judge must then be able to approach the dog and touch it without the dog moving.
Just as I stepped away, the photographer brought out her squeaky toy to get the attention of a dog she was photographing. Jerry came to attention, quivering, but didn't move. The judge approached him, and I thought we were home free. But the photographer squeaked the toy again, and this time, she threw it up in the air. Jerry shot out of the ring and headed for her like a red streak. He reached her just as she tossed up the toy again, and took a flying leap at it, landing in the middle of photographer, camera and all, and scaring the life out of her! By then, huffing and puffing (far) behind him, I had to yell at her that it was OK, he just wanted that squeaky!
Jerry is not easy to live with - he's hyper as all get out. But I can teach him to do nearly anything with a squeaky toy as a reward. It's the same with the police dogs. If they don't have that drive, it's difficult to motivate them to focus on an intense job. The dogs with the highest drive are the often the best at whatever they do, be it competitive agility, obedience or serious work such as herding, or sniffing out drugs or explosives.
Be sure to come on out to Tim's Toyota Center on July 14, and see these dogs in demonstrations of obstacle courses, obedience, bite work, and police scenarios. You'll be amazed at their skills. Be sure to come early, because you'll also be amazed at how warm and fuzzy they can be when you meet them first hand. Just don't fall for it if Joey offers you his toy. He's just kidding.