K9 units from Ledyard, Stonington and Waterford demonstrated their dogs' skills for Waterford High School students. The dogs were told to find a pair of lost keys, to obey and back up an officer, to sniff out drugs and to apprehend a suspect.
Ledyard residents are probably used to seeing Officers Ringo and Lambeau showing off their skills around town at various events but there are approximately 14 K9 units in New London County, plus an additional three who work for the Connecticut State Police Troop E.
Officer Daniel Gagnon is the vice president of the Connecticut Police Work Dogs Association and answered a few of the most frequently asked questions about police dogs.
Q. Do they live at home with you?
A. Yes, we have take-home cars so if we're needed we can respond immediately. They are pets when they're at home and part of the family.
Q. Where do you get them from?
A. Some are purchased, some are donated. Lambeau was bought from a vendor for $6,500, for instance. Ringo was donated by Fidelco, of Stonington.
Q. At what age do you start training them?
A. Ideally between 12 - 18 months old. At that point, they have matured quite a bit and are looking for a task/job and they receive praise and corrections much better.
Q. What happens when they retire?
A. We get the option of keeping the dogs, which most handlers opt for.
Q. Is there a difference between the workability of male and female dogs?
A. No there isn't , both work very well.
Q. What other tasks can they perform?
A. These dogs can be trained in a variety of tasks, most are dual purpose, meaning they are trained in two different areas. Ledyard's dogs are Patrol and Narcotics certified but some are bomb dogs, accelerant dogs, cadaver dogs, gun dogs and the prisons are training dogs to sniff out cell phones.
Q. When do they retire?
A. When they can't work/perform up to the standards anymore. The standards are set forth by the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA).
Q. Who trains the dogs?
A. We have two Master Trainers certified through NAPWDA.
Q. How long does the training last?
A. Approximately 16 weeks: 12 weeks for the patrol side and 4 weeks for the Narcotics, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. Of course this depends on the size of the group .
Q. Can I pet your dog?
A. Thanks for asking and yes you can but you should always ask first as with any strange dog.