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K9s-Elite Athletes Needing World Class Training

By Peg McRoy

The K9s that work side by side with law enforcement officers are a special breed of dog. They are bred to be elite athletes that constantly need to be trained, challenged, and tested.

“These K9s are the elite athletes of the elite athletes,” said Corporal Kyle Schaefer with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department, as well as a K9 trainer, supervisor, and handler. “They are the Lebron James, Michael Jordan, and Peyton Manning of their world.”

When these K9s are acquired by law enforcement they have already been given basic training. Once they are in the care of their handlers (officers) more extensive training begins and continues throughout the dog’s service.

Their skills need to be sharpened on a regular basis so that when they are on the street and in an actual deployment, they can perform their required jobs.

“The Department of Justice recommends a minimum of 16 hours of formal training per dog per month and we follow those guidelines,” said Schaefer “Indiana does not have state certifications. There are several different organizations throughout the country that have varying certification guidelines. We meet or exceed all of those certifications.”

“The initial training is just the basic stuff,” said Schaefer. “After we get the dog from a vendor, we fine-tune them for the job they are going to be doing on the street.”

An elite K9 training to sharpen skills needed in the field. (Submitted photos)

A few years ago, Schaefer recognized that there was a need in central Indiana for a resource to enhance the fine-tuning, care, and training of the K9s and their handlers. In response to that need, he and Theresa M. Brandon, retired U.S. Department of Labor Chair, co-founded the Central Indiana K9 Association.

Although located in Plainfield, the Central Indiana K9 Association serves all of central Indiana. In addition to Schaefer, Deputy Nate Hidschman with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office, Lieutenant Tom Owens with the Avon Police Department, and Corporal Rob Pritchard with Plainfield Police Department are trainers for the association.

The twice monthly training for the K9s is in-house service training. Quarterly training is offered through the Central Indiana K9 Association.

“Nate, Tom, Rob, and I travel all over the country to gain knowledge and keep up on national standards,” said Schaefer. “There are hundreds of ways to train a K9. We travel the country going to conferences and seminars. When we see a good presentation then we try to bring that presenter to central Indiana.”

The relationship between the dog and its handler goes much deeper than training and on-the job deployments. The K9s live full-time with their handler creating a true partnership. There is no doubt that these officers of the law love these dogs.

Some of the training is tailored to building that bond between the handler and K9 so they become a well-oiled machine.

“We always talk about how your emotions flow through the leash,” said Schaefer. “Dogs can feel you through the leash and you can feel the dog back through the leash. That is where the teamwork comes in.”

Officer Sam Sims from Avon with K9 Ricsi.

Funding has been and continues to be a scarce resource throughout the nation for K9 extensive training. There are many agencies that do not have the budget, means, or time to do it.

“I have been very fortunate in that current and past administrations have allowed me to and continue to allow me to go to different places and gain this training knowledge,” said Schaefer. “But we are always trying to raise money. We want to keep the officers and public safe. There are a lot of agencies across Indiana that are not funded. That is one of the reasons I started the association.”

When on patrol these K9s are obedient and can think for themselves.

“These dogs want to work for us, and we want the dogs to be able to think for themselves and that is done through the training process,” said Schaefer. “When I drop that leash it is on the dog. I want to know that dog is going to go out and do the job by himself and then return to me. So when ‘Dad’ drops the leash, the K9 thinks ‘I’ve got this dad. I will take care of it and come back to you.’”

These elite K9s are a valuable tool in keeping the police department and public safe and their ability to do that is ensured through world-class training.

Supporting the Central Indiana K9 Association with Sponsorships

The association supports and supplements K9 units across central Indiana and strives to assist, unite, and promote all working K9 teams across central Indiana.

Sponsorship dollars go to support:

  • The Shadow Fund—a medical grant program for retired dogs. Many times, when these dogs retire, they are signed over to their handler. The handler then becomes responsible for the dog’s medical costs. Often these dogs are retired due to medical issues so this can put a financial burden on the handler. The Shadow Fund is a grant program that a handler can apply to for financial assistance.
  • The Training Program—supports the four quarterly training seminars that the association facilitates for central Indiana.
  • A Monument for K9s—supports the long-term goal in creating a monument for dogs that have passed in the line of duty.

Sponsorships levels are:

The German Shepherd Pack – $2,500 and up.

The Belgian Malinois Pack – $1,000 to 2,499

The Dutch Shepherd Pack – $500-$999

The Labrador Retriever Pack – $250-$249

The Bloodhound Pac – Up to $249

Contact Information:

Phone: 317-279-6317

Email: info@cik9.org

Website: www.CIK9.org

Address: P.O. Box 203, Plainfield, IN 46168

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