The world’s most specialized police dogs are born and trained in a fairly improbable place.
Every RCMP police service dog comes from the small central Alberta town of Innisfail. Bred with a checklist of qualities and trained with military precision, about 120 puppies get their start here every year. Perhaps 40 of those will end up working for the Mounties.
Police and government agencies around the globe are left begging for Canada’s finest canine recruits — or travel to the RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre just to learn the ropes.
“German shepherds are the best all round dogs for what we want them to do,” explains RCMP dog handler Claudio Maurizio.
And would-be handlers spend years clawing up the ranks to get a shot at working with them.
And, on this hot, smoke-filled day caused by faraway wildfires, 2-year-old police dogs in training, Jedi, Jolt, Jiggs and J-Rock, put on a show for hundreds gathered at the training centre about an hour north of Calgary for a public demonstration on its new agility field.
Canadian to the core, these canine cops are perfectly suited to work in 40C and in -40C.
They run up tall buildings. Bound over walls. Take down bad guys.
They find explosives, detect drugs or weapons, track suspects, find lost people and locate human remains.
Mostly, they obey their handlers.
The dogs at Westminster have nothing on these pooches.
They jump incredibly high.
They climb to dizzying heights.
And race down on command.
They chase criminals in impressive fashion.
You do not want to be on the wrong side of those teeth.
On this day, the flags fly at half mast.
Two police officers were among those killed in the line of duty in Fredericton, New Brunswick during a shooting spree. A local man is now charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
“It’s a grim reminder that police work can be very, very dangerous,” the facility’s commanding officer tells the audience. “The reality is, it’s a dangerous job.”
Dangerous for police service dogs, too.
Dozens have been killed in action. The stabbing death of one police dog sparked an outcry.
Canada went on to amend the Criminal Code to capture those who harm police service animals.
Several charges have since been laid under Quanto’s Law.
The newly renovated memorial park pays homage to them all.
Twenty years ago, the Mounties would acquire dogs from other agencies or breeders.
But as the worldwide demand for highly-skilled working dogs increased, the RCMP launched its own breeding program in 1999.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, American agencies bought the world’s supply of German shepherds creating a global shortage, the dog handlers explained.
By that time, the RCMP’s breeding program was well underway with scientific accuracy. Training has also been modified to suit male and female dogs to ensure they get the most out of a dog’s 5-year career.
And of course, as part of the public demonstration officers unleashed the puppies.
There is still time to catch the show at the PDSTC, which take place Wednesday afternoons during the summer months until Labour Day.