This week, Omnitrans was honored to make its bus yard and facility available to an elite group of K-9 law enforcement officers for explosive detection training exercises.
When Detective Brad Phillips of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department contacted us to organize the training, we were happy to help.
“We often work with local law enforcement to provide vehicles for training exercises,” says Omnitrans Security and Loss Prevention Supervisor Mark Crosby. “It’s mutually beneficial because it helps us assess our own emergency preparedness. It also gives us the opportunity to get to know each other and establish a relationship before an emergency situation arises rather than after.”
sbX vehicles, Omnitrans buses and the San Bernardino office were used for this training exercise. In talking with the officers, we learned that the dogs are exposed to many different types of toys when they are puppies. Eventually they will zero in on one toy that is their absolute favorite. That toy is then removed and used only as a playtime reward for successful detecting missions. Basically, these K-9s work for fun!
“When we pull up on a scene and they see other k-9 units, they know its play time,” grins one officer. “They are incredibly smart and love to hunt.”
Watching these teams together, the deep affection between the canine officers and their human partners is obvious. Not only do they work together, they also live together as family. “We’re together 24/7,” chuckles another officer. “My dog sleeps in the same bed as my wife and I. We’re pretty much joined at the hip. He follows me wherever I go.”
The training exercises are a double blind. Neither the dog nor his partner knows where the item is hidden. When they inspect the scene, the two move in tandem, thoroughly inspecting any possible hiding place, focusing completely on the task at hand. The dog sniffs every part of the vehicle, becoming gradually more excited as it hones in on the scent.
One officer explains to us how refined the dogs’ sense of smell is. “As humans, when we walk into the kitchen and stew is cooking on the stove, we simply smell stew. These dogs smell beef and carrots and potatoes and pepper—all of the individual ingredients that make up the whole. They break down information that specifically.”
Occasionally the officers might purposely throw in a “distractor” to see if the dog can be thrown off track. During one exercise, a dog alerted her partner to a little bag of peanuts tucked under a bus seat, before continuing her search.
When the dog finds the item he signals his partner by sitting and looking into his eyes expectantly. The reward is immediate: lots of praise and petting and, of course, exciting playtime with the much anticipated favorite toy.
The work of these K-9 teams was impressive. In each case, the dog was able to correctly locate the substance and alert his partner. Working for fun is a great motivator!
– Juno Kughler Carlson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to Omnitrans Security and Loss Prevention Supervisor Mark Crosby
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