K9 unit award

Deputy Luke Ashley serves with K-9 partner Zar, a German Shepherd from Poland.

The International Police Working Dog Association (IPWDA) recently certified all three Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) K-9 teams.

When beginning service with a law enforcement agency, the dog and human partner must attend a basic school that lasts up to 14 weeks. In addition to learning the specific tasks required to serve as a law enforcement officer, one of the goals of the basic training is to begin building the dog’s resume. Every training event is documented from day one because a dog’s training and usage records provide the necessary qualifications to serve as a police dog. These records are kept for court purposes and are also used to establish probable cause for search warrants. At minimum, the OCSO K-9 teams complete 300 hours of training per year.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said, “Once an OCSO K-9 unit completes the basic school, we set our eyes on a higher goal. Every year, we endeavor to certify our teams with a nationally recognized organization such as IPWDA. This process ensures that our community receives a superior level of service and performance from our K-9 teams.

I am pleased to announce our entire K-9 program received IPWDA certification recently in the disciplines of narcotics detection, tracking, evidence searches, evidence detection, building searches, obedience, and apprehension, which is also sometimes called controlled aggression. Two teams received this recognition in March; the third completed the program last week.”

Deputy David Funk serves as the training coordinator for the K-9 unit. His partner is Callie, a Dutch Shepherd from the Czech Republic. Deputy Luke Ashley serves with K-9 partner Zar, and Deputy Joe Winecoff works with K-9 Tres. Zar and Tres are both German Shepherds from Poland.

Deputy Funk reports, “Constantly training and devising fresh problem-solving situations is the most rewarding and challenging thing we do as K-9 handlers. The key to success is to build up the confidence of each K-9 team by exposing them to anything we can think of that has relevance to a situation they might encounter at work.  We need them to be comfortable no matter what comes their way. The rigor of the IPWDA certification process helps us accomplish this goal.”