This past week, members of the New Brunswick RCMP's Police Dog Services team attended training sessions in Dieppe, Moncton and Riverview with their police dogs. These exercises happen a few times a year and are an opportunity to practice special techniques and allow the police dogs to interact amongst each other. The dog handlers begin by running obedience exercises before hitting the road to practice tracking in the city and forested areas.
In New-Brunswick, there are six members and six police dogs on the Police Dog Services team. Two of these members and police dogs are located at the Codiac Regional RCMP in Moncton, but they can be called to respond to situations anywhere in the province.
Corporal Jonathan Moreau has been with the police dog team since 2012 and has lived in Moncton for 8 years now. Originally from Maniwaki in Quebec, Corporal Moreau didn't intend to become a police dog handler "the opportunity presented itself and it became a passion of mine" says Corporal Moreau who, in addition to his current working police dog, kept both of his retired police dogs at home.
Nykko is his third working police dog and will celebrate his third birthday in the next few months. "He is always ready to work" says Corporal Moreau over the excited barks of Nykko who is comfortably nested in his kennel at the back of the specialized canine unit vehicle. At 70 pounds, Nykko is an imposing and energetic German shepherd: perfect qualities for a generalist police dog that can search for human odors, firearms and drugs.
Dog Handler is a highly sought-after position amongst members of the RCMP. So, what does it take to become a dog handler? "You have to be physically fit. [Being a dog handler] is a very unusual way of living. We are always outdoors, we work long hours and the job is physically demanding." After two years of service, interested members who demonstrate the required competencies can join the mentorship program and attend training days with current dog handlers in order to begin the process. They also have to be willing to raise and train puppies during their first year of life before having their first police dog and attending the Police Dog Service Training Centre in Innisfall, Alberta.