LA PORTE â On Saturday, La Porte City Police brought out two of their three police dogs, Rambo and Kerr, to demonstrate how the dogs assist in keeping the community safe.Â Â
The event was held at Pet Supplies Plus, 1406 E. Lincoln Way.
Rambo started the show by alerting on a vehicle containing narcotics. Alerting is when the dog gives certain signs that they have found somethingÂ â like pointing, barking or pacing quickly back and forth.
A Mal-Shepherd hybrid, Rambo has assisted police for five years now, with just under 500 “marks” (documented uses of force/apprehensions or a narcotic bust) under his collar.
According to Officer Matt Drangmeister, the dogs are given German commands (or another language of the officer’s choice, but most often German) to distinguish when they are being addressed. For example, if the dog hears the English word “sit” in conversation, it will not be confused whether or not it is a command for them to follow, whereas German is differentiated for them.
Tone of voice is also very important to the dogs. Drangmeister said a high-pitch tone of voice is associated with praise, whereas a low tone is reserved for punishment.Â
Kerr, a 16-month old Mal-Shepherd, was up next as he demonstrated apprehension of a fleeing suspect. Drangmeister pretended to flee and resist, which caused the dog to leap into action, biting him on his specially padded training sleeve and holding him down.Â
The dogs are trained to know when it is time to work and when they are off duty, such as in the home of the officer. Drangmeister said when the collar goes on, or the dog is brought out to the police vehicle, they know it is time to work.
The average retirement age for a police dog is 8Â to 9 years old. Other factors such as overall health also determine the length of service.
German Shepherds, Drangmeister said, tend to develop hip and spinal problems as they get older. The reason the police tend to use ‘hybrids’, or mixed breeds, is to get the best of both the Malamute and the German Shepherd’s traits â thus they prefer these dogs over purebreds.
Police dogs undergo a six week training period before they are brought into service. During this time, the dogs in training can be weeded out if they fail to perform correctly. These dogs are then sold to families as pets.Â
While Rambo was born in Hungary, Kerr was purchased from the Czech Republic. While there are some exceptions, most police dogs are male,Â which is the case for all three La Porte police dogs. The third and newest arrival is Dallas, who began service last month.
Not only are the dogs specialized but so are the vehicles.Â
La Porte City PoliceÂ use Dodge Durangos, with three of them being outfitted for police dogs and three as standard patrol vehicles. It cost $6,000 to $7,000 to outfit a vehicle for use with dogs. The department plans on purchasing seven more Durangos soon.
Vehicles must be outfitted with a special cage, door screen, door pop locks, heat sensors so that if the car gets to be a certain temperature it pages the officer of heat danger, rear seats and decals. The vehicle, for example, must say “Stay back â Police Dog.” The term “K9” is no longer used.Â
Watching the demonstration was Pet Supply Plus employee Micah Wright, who wore a mascot suit named “Spot,” a Dalmatian. Spot helped entertain the children, getting his photo taken with the kids alongside the real dogs.Â
The police dogs and some of the vehicle alterations were donated by several generous citizens of La Porte who wish to remain anonymous.Â