"Man's best friend is his dog" -- so goes the famous saying. But to four?
"Man's best friend is his dog" -- so goes the famous saying. But to four RCMP constables graduating with their dogs from training school at Sydney, Nova Scotia, this saying is more truth than fiction.
The RCMP service dogs have become legend in Canada for their courage and ability as the fastest, most daring four-footed cops in the country. The famous German shepherds are stationed with their police masters in 18 centres across Canada from coast to coast and are available upon call to be driven or flown to any near or remote area to assist in any of dozens of duties.
Their elementary and final training takes place at a small community in the heart of the rolling hills of Cape Breton Island near Sydney, N.S., which is their birthplace. A select dozen sleek, well bred, highly intelligent German shepherd pups are in training at the kennels at any period. Their male parent is the big 100 pound fierce-looking "Cito Von Schloss" and their birth is no accident. The breeding dogs are carefully selected to bring out the required temperaments for police work. Only the German shepherd is used. It is a working dog well suited to the changing climatic conditions of this vast country. They are extremely versatile and have the intelligence to train and retain their training.
To this eastern training area come a selected few RCMP constables who have made application to this section of the force. There are far more applications then can be taken for the school. The men chosen must have satisfactorily proven three years of regular duty in the field and a short try-out at a refresher course for regular dogs and masters. Then it is a rigid three months training period where the man and the dog take their training together.
Devotion is the only word suitable to explain the feelings of the officer for his dog. Each animal has a temperament the same as a human and man and dog are well matched. Quiet dog with quiet man --- frisky pup with an outgoing extrovert personality. This selection is extremely important as the dog and man work and keep on training throughout the service of the dog -- usually eight years.
At the school training starts early in the morning with grooming of the animals, checking their health, and exercises. Their training with a master generally starts when they are about nine months old. Sergeant Gordon Teeft -- dog master and training expert, puts the men and dogs through the routine exercises -- teaching them commands to heel -- sit -- stay -- come -- hup (jump) -- hag (attack) -- guard -- search and track. As the dogs become familiar with one command and performance of the command, they go on the next, repeating just enough on learned commands so as not to become bored, and then going on to new things.
The dogs learn to guard an object and to repel any person who tries to touch it -- growling to frighten the intruder and jumping to ward him off if he continues to approach, but always returning to the object.
Then they learn to attack and when they are given the command "hag" nothing stops them. In training, a school employee wears a leather arm guard to avoid injury. When the dog has quietened the "criminal", for example, the constable calls him off and he obeys immediately, letting his master take over. The dog at this point is vicious and his natural feelings of survival with an adversary take over, but he is always under the control and command of his master. The dogs are not trained to be cruel but they are trained to work on command. They can be as gentle as a small house dog or as vicious as their master commands.
An important part of the work of these famous teams is search and rescue. Tracking down criminals in out-lying areas accounts for about 26% of their work and searching for lost persons, 20%. Looking for lost articles, sniffing out moonshiners' stills, looking for evidence thrown from cars in drunken driving cases, for example, constitutes a large part of their duties.
Taking the dogs and constables out on their pre-graduation tracking exercise, the group is driven to a remote wooded area away from the training kennels. Sergeant Teeft, with the help of his assistant lays a trail for each dog. The constable doesn't know what objects the dog must find on the trail. The dog picks up the man's scent from some small article and takes off down the trial, carefully eliminating any other scents until he has picked out the right one. The constable holds the dog on a 15-foot leash and doesn't attempt to guide him. Here the dog takes over and works the trail with the constable in full run behind him. Our assistant dropped a couple of objects along the one-mile trail, and where the dog stopped and the scent became more pronounced, the constable came upon the dropped object --- it could be a match stick, cigarette butt, or something accidentally dropped by a fleeting criminal or a lost person.
At the end of the trail, comfortably settled after his jaunt, our quarry lies down for a rest. Before long the dog is upon him, having followed his trail to the end. A trail can be one hour old or 24 hours old --- the unerring nose leads the dog to the find. It is a well known fact that hardened criminals on jail breaks will give up much sooner if they know the dogs are on the trail.
Training completed, the proud teams stand to attention to be inspected by their officer commanding. Called by name, man any dog march forward to be presented with a passing-out scroll and the congratulations of their proud trainer Sergeant Teeft.
Many ways are claimed to train a dog, but the best way is to read a book on child psychology and apply the same rules. RCMP dogs are fearless in pursuit of dangerous criminals, but gentle with a lost child or injured person -- and it can be said the RCMP dog always gets his man!!