What to look for in a Trustworthy K-9 Vendor/Trainer
Selection of a K-9 Vendor or Trainer can be one of the biggest decisions you will make which can make or break your program. This can be a factor in existing k-9 programs or a major factor in a new program. Too many times this decision is taken too lightly and unfortunately agencies end up getting taken advantage of by less than honest vendors and /or trainers. Letís look at a few of the warning flags to look for and things your agency should do to try to limit your potential for problems.
The most important factor, yet least often done, is research, research and research your potential vendor/trainer. Many times agencies donít put enough effort into this and they end up with problems. I suggest an agency make at least one or more visits to the potential vendor or trainerís Facility. If the vendor has no dogs on site but will order one from Europe for you that should tell you they have little invested, it is a hobby for them, and they probably wonít be around if you have a problem or need a dog replaced. It is important your vendor carry a constant inventory of dogs on hand, which indicates their commitment to the industry and investment on their part. You have to remember that if they donít have any dogs on site to test, they either donít have the funds to buy dogs and stock them nor will they be able to get another dog for you if needed. In the end you still will have no selection, just whatever arrives. If you want to operate under that method, you should try to locate the dog yourself in Europe, as you will have the same luck if a problem arises with less invested.
It is also important the vendor has law enforcement k-9 experience and actually trains police officers. It is impossible for a civilian who has never been in law enforcement or worked a police k-9 to begin to understand the demands of the job and training required. Anyone can read a book or watch a video, but that doesnít make them a k-9 trainer. You need someone who has walked the walk who can then teach the walk. The person should be a Trainer or Master Trainer with a National K-9 Organization, serve on a board of a National K-9 Organization or be a state k-9 evaluator. To be any of these you have to have some time and reputation invested to obtain these levels, and the civilian vendor/trainers cannot obtain these positions.
I also suggest if at all possible when you visit the facility. You should try to watch a training day of a class, or a certification of a class which is even better. This also will tell you a lot of the vendor/trainers knowledge, ability to train, and the end product they produce or sell. I have seen a few agencies actually do this and it has worked well for them. The visits should be done by a top supervisor (Chief/Sheriff or their direct assistant), at least one line supervisor as well as possible handler/s. This doesnít mean however it is a vacation for these people from the department and work. It should be a fact finding trip and the time should be well spent. Too many times I have seen department trainers/officials spend 2-3 days to test for 1 dog. The reality is they spend most of their time doing everything but actually testing or selecting. You do have to remember a vendor is also busy if they are successful and they will have other students/clients. Although you are important to them, you need to respect them and not demand several days of their time, for nonproductive things. All reputable vendors/ trainers will gladly spend as much time as needed to help an agency, but it needs to be kept on a reasonable scale. If that vendor is not busy, that should tell you something else as well, and you should wonder why it is they arenít busy.
One main item of importance is medical information on every dog. A reputable vendor should have a full set of x-rays on each dog, their vaccination records, papers if the dog is papered and any title papers if the dog is titled. Do not except excuses, a reputable/ vendor/trainer should have this available at the time you look at the dog, and never accept they will be provided later or the dog is ďOKĒ. Make sure it is in order and make sure you know the warrantee on the dog or training. Reputable vendors/trainers should give at least one year warranty of the dog and any training at the minimum. If they wonít do this beware, there is probably a reason.
Another item that many times plays into the decision process is choosing a vendor or trainer just because they are local. Many times that is a good decision and the right one. But in many cases that choice can be the wrong one and costly in the end. You have to research and pick the most qualified vendor or trainer and certainly with a solid list of references. Donít make your decision based on the idea of ďmy handler can commute back and forth instead of the cost of staying in a hotel and the meal costs to go somewhere far awayĒ. Select the best possible vendor/ trainer, not the most convenient one.
It is a shame that agencies must make such an effort to ensure their vendor or trainer is reputable and knowledgeable. There are numerous vendors/trainers across the country. However there are many people in it for a fast buck and you need to be on guard for these people. Donít accept what you donít want. Donít be talked into a dog or form of training just because it is there or the vendor/trainer thinks its best, do your homework. If you follow these rules and do your homework, you will greatly improve your odds of your program being successful.
Master Trainer N.A.P.C.H./A.P.C.A.
Patrol/Narcotics/Explosives/School Resource Officer/Cadaver