Chanto finds home with Porterville PD
For Officer Michael Gray, the Porterville Police Department’s newest recruit is the perfect fit for him, although Gray admits, at one and a half, Chanto still has some problems controlling his excitement.
“He’s just curious about everything,” Gray said of the PPD’s newest K9. Gray went on to say that Chanto is always very alert, and that it was a good sign.
“You don’t want one that is just walking around with his head down,” Gray said.
Chanto, a German Shepherd from East Germany, was purchased from the Adlerhorst International K-9 Academy in Riverside. According to Sgt. Brian Nix of the K9 division, Chanto is the first German Shepherd that the PPD has had in a long time. They usually use the Belgian Malinois, a breed, Nix says, which isn’t as social as German Shepherds. Because of his roots, Chanto can only be commanded in German, a language his handler, Gray, had to learn. Regardless of whether Nix was to address him in German or not, however, as a service dog, Chanto only responds to one person.
“He’s typically not going to listen to me. It’s how the commands are given and who they are from,” Nix said. Of the PPD’S other K9s, one is commanded in English and the other two in Dutch.
According to the Adlerhorst International brochure, these dogs are titled in “guard and bark training” a type of sport training common in Europe which serves as an excellent base for the sort of service training the dogs require to work in law enforcement or the military.
“The dogs that this vender procures from all over Europe are trained in different types of ring sports,” Nix said. “Some are titled, some are not. They all have some levels of base training. Chanto is what they call a ‘green dog’, he was not awarded any special titling from the sport he was trained in.”
Chanto was at the top of his class however, Nix said, and he passed his P.O.S.T. standards test with “flying colors.”
Gray and Chanto were ran through a six-week course at Adlerhorst, which covered obedience, agility, lost persons, area, building, and evidence searches, as well as criminal apprehension.
Chanto was not the first dog Gray trained with. He went through two dogs before being paired with Chanto. The other two had “conflicts” with Gray, Nix said.
“One was just as friendly, but he had trouble with searches,” Gray added. “The other was not as friendly. They call him a ‘harder’ dog.”
Nix explained further that as “dogs have a personality just like people, the process (of choosing one) is not an exact science; sometimes it takes a while for a dog and a handler to bond.”
As pack animals, Nix said, the dog has to recognize the handler as the “alpha” and obey his or her commands. The training and play the dogs engage in, Gray added, is geared toward enforcing the “toy-drive”: when conducting a search, the dog feels it is searching for its toy, and this behavior is reinforced by the officer presenting the dog with a toy after a successful search.
To be a K9, the dogs must be friendly and good with children. Every officer in the K9 division is married with children, Nix explained, and the dog is cared for like a member of the family, though costs are covered by the department. Nix says that at this point, Chanto will be most useful searching for persons or items held by a person, and can scout out an area as large as a football field in a few minutes. After a year working with Gray, Nix added, Chanto may be cross-trained in narcotics. With four dogs, the PPD will now have an on-duty K9 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nix expects that Chanto will give the department eight to 10 years of service.
Members that enter the K9 division do not immediately receive a dog. According to Nix, these officers serve as a training decoys. This duty helps the officers to overcome any fear they may have of the animals. That inherent fear that people have, Nix added, is what makes K9s so effective. In a situation where a person is in a building, refusing to give themselves up, that person is much more likely to surrender to a K9 than a group of officers.