Dogs are often used in search-and-rescue operations, drug busts and bomb threat cases, and training is vital in keeping them, and their trainers, at the top of their game.
To help ensure that dogs and handlers have the most up-to-date information, Albany police officer Kyle McCraith — a canine handler for nearly 20 years — along with several dog trainers and other experts in November formed the New York State Canine Association, which provides instruction to its members for free.
"We routinely see police handlers that want quality training and can't get it. We're seeing these guys who are dedicated enough to show up to trainings, pay for hotels, food and their registration fees," McCraith said. "We want to help them."
The association has about 60 members and is open to law enforcement professionals and search-and-rescue teams, McCraith said. Members pay a $20 annual fee and can attend classes and request training in specific areas to meet North American Police Work Dog Association standards.
Training ranges from search and rescue to grooming.
"Grooming can affect your dog's performance whilst working," said association coordinator Thomas Poltynski. "A dog that has ticks or fleas won't be concentrating 100 percent on the job it's supposed to be doing."
Training also focuses on tactics for dealing with perpetrators who are likely to be well-armed and knowledgeable, said association President Stephen "Doc" Mackenzie, a SUNY Cobleskill professor of animal science and a work dog association master trainer.
The New York association hopes to hold many training sessions across the state if it can raise the money, Poltynski said. "That's probably the hardest thing we're up against."
Sessions can cost thousands of dollars, including paying the trainers and for a host venue, he said.
The association has a list of training sessions its members would like to attend and is working on raising money to provide them.
Donated equipment such as bulletproof vests for the dogs are important, but they help only one dog at a time, Mackenzie said.
"If you really want to invest in the future, you need to invest in ideas and training," he said. "This is about teaching people and improving their skills. That will last for a lifetime, not just a few years."
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New York State Canine Association
For more information:
Visit www.nyscanine association.org
Email Vice President Kyle McCraith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donate via PayPal on the website, or send a check to NYSCA, C/O James Danquer, Treasurer, 2898 Main St. Blossvale, NY 13308