The Rocky River Police K9 program began in 2003 with Rylo and his handler, Ptl. Garth Selong. Rylo served until 2013.
Today, the Department has two police working dog teams: Diego and handler Ptl. Rodriguez and Apollo and handler Ptl. Gonzalez. Diego and Apollo are both German Shepherds bred locally at Schmidt Kennels of Macedonia. Both were specifically selected for police service. Diego is Rylo's grandson.
Both of our dogs began training with their handlers at about six weeks old. After accumulating over 240 hours of training, they tested and became certified with the State of Ohio as a police canine unit. A certified police K9 is recognized by Ohio courts. When used properly, these dogs can provide probable cause that the scent of illegal drugs is present. Our service dogs are also certified in building searches and apprehension.
Both Rocky River K9 teams train with the Buckeye Area Regional K9 (BARK) group. They also meet with other K9 teams in the region for additional training. To maintain certification, each team has to train at least sixteen hours per month, which we accomplish by weekly four hour training blocks. Each week, the teams train for illegal drug detection, obedience, article searches, tracking, and apprehension. The dogs have to be continuously challenged to keep their skills sharp.
Police service dogs are selected for having a high drive, or an innate desire to work. That is generally accompanied by high energy levels. To service dogs, their work is play. For example, to train dogs for drug detection, they play with drug scented toys as puppies. As the dogs age, handlers begin to hide the toys and the dogs use their sense of smell to find them.
Police service dogs love to work. Reading cues from their handler, they recognize when it's time to work and get notably excited. They recognize certain areas in the City while on patrol where they regularly practice or exercise.
Diego and Apollo are certified in apprehension, which includes a bite and hold technique. However, despite that training, many police service dogs are good family pets. Diego lives in a home with two children and is very gentle with them.
Police vehicles used for K9 service have a lot of special equipment to keep the temperature consistent (and sound an alarm if it gets too hot) and provide an area for the dog to sit or lay for an extended period. The cars also have an area for food and water for the dogs.
Rocky River Police service dogs are dual trained in searches (narcotics, people, and articles) and patrol (apprehension, building searches, and handler protection).
In addition to search and patrol functions, service dogs are used by the military and law enforcement for other scent work including cadaver and explosive searches.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is it OK to pet a service dog?
A: Sometimes! It is important to ask the dog's handler before attempting to pet him. While many service dogs are friendly and well socialized, some are not. In addition, it may not be appropriate to pet a service dog when he is working or practicing, as some handlers don't want to confuse the dog by mixing work and play.
Q: Do police service dogs go home with their handler?
A: Rocky River Police service dogs go home with their handler. Our handlers spend almost all of their time with their dogs, both on and off duty.
Q: Are police dogs attack dogs?
A: No. Rocky River Police dogs are trained to bite and hold, not to attack or cause unnecessary injury.
Q: How is the Rocky River K9 program funded?
A: Much of the K9 program is funded by donations from residents and business in the Rocky River community.