An Overview Of The K-9 Unit
The Division of Law Enforcement K9 Unit began with its first canine (K9) "Paws" and his handler ECO Richard Matzell in 1978. Recognizing that police K9s were trained to detect illegal drugs and bombs, DLE decided that training dogs to locate wildlife species taken and hidden by poachers would aid in the apprehension of game violators. After attending the first New York State Police K9 Handler School, the result was DLE's first K9, trained as a Patrol K9 with the unique ability to detect wildlife. The K9 team was successful in making several arrests, and located lost and wanted subjects during their first year in the field. They also provided valuable public outreach by performing demonstrations statewide. The success of this duo prompted the enlargement of the K9 Unit to what it is today.
K9s chosen for the program are German Shepherds. Chosen for their loyalty to one person, intelligence, trainability, German Shepherds are noted for their ability to learn a number of tasks and perform them well. The dogs are chosen at between 1 and 2 years old, when they are mature enough to accept training, and they must have good temperament and confidence, and no health issues.
Additionally we choose dogs with a very high ball drive. Simply put a dog with an extreme desire to play and chase a ball is likely to possess the drives necessary to train it to become a police work dog. The reward for doing a good job will be to play with a ball.
The K9s remain the property of the Division of Law Enforcement. Veterinary care and food are provided. However, it is required that the dog live in the home with the handler and his family. This aids in their continued socialization, and supports the strong bond required between handler and his K9.