CANAL FULTON — A 10-week-old Belgian Malinois dangled from the padded arm of an officer posing as a suspect during K-9 training in Massillon Community Park.
After the pup latched onto the “suspect’s” arm, his handler, officer Daniel Shetler, gave the command for him to let go. The dog trotted off with the padded sleeve as Shetler called after him, “Good boy.”
The sleeve served as a reward for the dog following his handler’s commands. Rouge, Canal Fulton’s new K-9, happily chewed on the prize in the grass.
Shetler and Rogue have been training together for four weeks, focusing on narcotics, tracking and bite work.
Rogue is the Police Department’s second K-9, joining the force in June. The Police Department posted a photo introducing the pup on its Facebook page. Though he looks cute surrounded by teddy bears and stuffed animals in the photo, Rogue will grow up to be a hardworking police dog.
The new K-9 will replace Bishop, who is expected to retire by the end of 2020. Bishop, a German shepherd, was added to the department’s lineup in 2013.
Training with B.A.R.K.
The puppy was donated to the department by Buckeye Area Regional Canine, a Medina-based organization that breeds and trains police dogs.
Tom Schmidt, founder of B.A.R.K., has been breeding Belgian Malinois for nearly 25 years and German shepherds for 50 years. The organization has provided 110 dogs to at least 25 agencies in the area with Rogue being the latest.
While both breeds make good working dogs, Schmidt said, Belgian Malinois have more energy and aren’t prone to the same health issues as German shepherds.
When it comes to the hardest worker, the Malinois has the shepherd beat “hands down,” he added.
Thursday morning, Schmidt led a K-9 training session in the Massillon park. He coached Shetler to keep Rogue close by during a tracking exercise.
“They have twice the energy,” Schmidt said. “They just never quit. They’re smaller, but they’re faster and they live longer.”
Shetler and his K-9 began training together when Rogue turned 6 weeks old. The duo will train weekly with B.A.R.K. and daily on their own.
By 6 months old, Rogue can become certified in narcotics, tracking and evidence recovery, Schmidt said. By one year, he can get his patrol certification, which includes building and area searches, bite work, obedience and socialization.
“This is all the dog knows,” Schmidt said. “This is life for him, and he enjoys it.”
Shetler, who previously worked for Lawrence Township Police Department for three years, joined the department in 2017. When he came on board, Shetler began working with Sgt. Josh Barabasch, who was the department’s first K-9 handler.
Shetler attended K-9 training with Barabasch and Bishop for at least eight months to learn more about the commitment of being a handler.
Before being approached by Barabasch, Shetler never considered being a K-9 handler. After watching experienced handlers work with their dogs during B.A.R.K. training sessions, Shetler decided to accept the position.
“It’s a lot of work just to get this dog road worthy to begin with,” Barabasch explained. “It’s thousands of hours you’re investing.”
Shetler felt more comfortable with the position after seeing it first-hand instead of from the outside looking in, he said.
When the new handler isn’t in the office working with Rogue, he’s doing drills at home or taking him for a jog around his neighborhood.
Though it’s been an adjustment, Shetler said, the transition to having Rogue at home has been a good one.
As Rogue grows, Chief Doug Swartz said, the department hopes to socialize him with the community more than they did with K-9 Bishop. Though there are times when the dog needs to show an aggressive side, Swartz said, he doesn’t want the dog to have a reputation of being scary or unapproachable.
Just like other officers at the Canal Fulton Police Department, Swartz wants Rogue to be able to interact with the community.
Rogue got a taste for the job while working with Shetler at a June country music festival. A few festival-goers even snapped a photo with the pup.
“We really want to integrate the dog in the community more,” Swartz said. “We would like to see more interaction and more socialization with the dog and our residents.”
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