MARION — The Marion Police Department has added a new police dog to its ranks — a 1½-year-old, male Belgian Malinois named Kain.
Once they’ve completed their six-week training course, Kain and his handler, Officer Adam Herrig, will bring the department’s three-team K-9 unit back up to full force, said police Chief Joseph McHale.
Kain was born in Slovakia and raised and trained at Vohne Liche Kennels — a facility that has trained more than 5,000 law enforcement and military dogs — in Denver, Ind. He will fill one of the spots vacated last year when two K-9s were retired.
“I’ve always been interested in working with dogs,” Herrig said. “Years ago, I went pheasant hunting with a guy who was a retired Department of Natural Resources supervisor, and he had two dogs that were just phenomenal. It was just fun to watch the dogs work.”
So, when the opportunity to join the K-9 unit presented itself last year, Herrig said he jumped at the chance.
Herrig said he went through a litany of testing to qualify for the position, including a physical fitness test, a stress test — that involved putting on a bite sleeve and decoy suit and getting bitten by the department’s other K-9s — and a written test.
“After that, there were the interviews, and then I found out I was selected,” he said.
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Last week, Herrig and K-9 Unit Supervisor Jason Schamberger made the trip to Vohne Liche to choose a dog. The process, Herrig said, is pretty in-depth.
“They’ll show you anywhere from three to 12 dogs,” he said.
The kennel trainers take each dog through a series of drug-seeking demonstrations so the potential handler can get a sense of the dogs’ personalities and drives.
“What we’re looking for is the dog’s focus — the way he stares at the object he is seeking,” Herrig said. “And, we wanted a dog that was going to be focused on the object, and not looking back at the handler for reassurance or reward. You want all his focus on that box where the narcotic is.”
“It’s also important to see that the dog has a significant prey or hunt drive,” Schamberger said.
The kennel trainers also put the dogs through some apprehension exercises, so the potential handler can see the dog’s biting style.
“As far as the apprehension goes, you want a dog that will do a full-mouth bite,” he said. “You don’t want to see the dog typewriting — repeatedly biting or nipping — down the arm or the leg. You want a dog that is going bite and hold and not let go until the handler calls him off.”
Kain, Herrig said, was a perfect fit.
“I wanted a dog that would work hard and work well with me, and that’s what I got with Kain,” he said.
The past few days, Herrig said, have been all about building that dog-handler bond. Kain has spent his days riding in Herrig’s squad car, listening to radio chatter and training with Herrig in drug detection. Additionally, Kain is learning how to be a family dog, living in Herrig’s house with his family and their family dog.
But this week, the real work begins.
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Starting Monday, Herrig and Kain will spend six weeks training at Vohne Liche Kennels where they both will do intensive work in narcotics detection, tracking and apprehension, and article searches.
“The Vohne Liche training program really puts the dog to the test. They really try to test the dogs, exploit their weaknesses and just thoroughly work them on all the aspects of the job so that we’re ready when we hit the streets.”
Once the training course is complete, and Herrig and Kain are certified, they’ll be ready.
“It’s a big commitment, and a big investment, but it’s definitely worth it,” Herrig said. “You have a bond with your K-9 that I really can’t describe. It really is a partnership.”
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