HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Passing The Sniff Test
Pubdate: Mon, 12 Mar 2018
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Mo Cranker
Page: A3


Plenty of hard work goes into training police service dogs to sniff
out illicit substances

For the vast majority of the dog population, sitting, shaking their
paw and possibly rolling over is more than enough to get a treat, or
some time with their favourite toy.

For police service dogs Astor and Flint, some of the highest praise
comes after sniffing out drugs hidden in a home or a vehicle.

The Medicine Hat Police Service is two weeks into training PSD Astor
to detect drugs and to notify his handler of any illegal substances he
may sniff out.

"We're about a week-and-a-half in Astor's drug training, and we've
been pretty busy," said Astor's handler, Const. Jason Ross. "We take
three weeks to do this and run our dog through hundreds of different
searches. We'll then go out to Calgary and then we'll hopefully be
certified by the trainer there. There will be unknown hides up in
Calgary and we'll have to pass them all. If we do we'll be a certified
drug team."

Through nearly two weeks of training, Ross says Astor is doing a good
job, but still has work to do.

"Basically what we do is bring him into an area using different search
patterns, depending on what type of area it is," he said. "He's doing
great with the training so far. He's the third dog I've done this
with, and he's been the best so far. His trainability and intensity
are really great, and you can see him in here - he's so happy, there's
nowhere else he'd rather be."

Communication between Ross and Astor is the most important factor of
drug searches, with each party giving the other clear signals during a

"The repetition of these search exercises are important because we
have to be on the same page," said Ross. "When we're searching and he
thinks he's found something, he'll sit or lay down. That's when we
know there may be something. In our searches we reward him with some
time with his ball, he loves this thing, in the field it's more about
praise. We may not know at a crime scene if there's actually drugs
hidden right away, so we just will give him a lot of praise."

The MHPS is training Astor to detect cocaine, methamphetamine, crack
cocaine, heroin and MDMA, giving the service yet another tool to use
at a crime scene.

"There's a lot of times the drugs are just so well hidden," said Ross.
"Sometimes they're also in a really small quantity that we could have
missed them. A dog's nose will rarely miss those hidden quantities or
hidden amounts, so having that at our disposal is pretty great."
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