TROY, N.Y. -- After 12 weeks of intense eight-hour days of training, five new K-9 dogs are ready to be unleashed into the field of work.
Sheriff Jack Mahar, joined by K-9 trainers Sandy Blodgett and Jason Temple at the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Department, awarded five new law enforcement K-9 officers to agencies from around the Capital District. The ceremony commenced with Mahar handing out certifications to each of the five K-9 owners.
Each dog was examined after the 12-week period to ensure they have met the minimal standards for explosive detection, patrol/ tracking and advanced narcotics detection.
"The training doesn’t stop now," Mahar said. "This will continue throughout their careers."
He said training doesn’t typically begin until the dogs are 18 months old and are more mature and can take on the pressures. The dogs that were certified Friday are between 18 months and 3-1/2 years old. The dogs are now ready to move on to more training.
"We’re putting a lot of pressure on these dogs," Mahar said. "They’re being put in dangerous areas, so we want to make sure that they’re capable of handling that."
The average lifespan of a German shepherd is about 12 to 14 years old. Mahar said the K-9s are usually working up until the age of 10 because beyond that, the dogs could get hurt. Throughout their careers, the dogs normally stay with their one handler because of the bond.
After the awards were given out, the K-9s were tested on their 12 weeks of hard work. They demonstrated the ability to attack a bite-protection sleeve and to sniff out drugs and explosives.
"Tracking is probably the hardest thing to teach the dogs," Blodgett said. The trainer has been in the K-9 unit for 23 years and has been running the dog training program with Temple for about five years. "It’s nice that the sheriff is dedicated to the program," Temple said. "It makes it easier when they’re a handler as well."
Mahar is a handler of five German shepherds so it’s easy for him and the trainers to relate to one another.
"Without all of the support that we have, it would be a lot harder for us," Blodgett said.