Police dogs chase and catch bad guys. It’s what they are trained to do – and they love it.
The dogs perform all of their tasks just for the chance to play with their favorite toy, and they like the work, said Prince William K-9 officer William F. VanAntwerp, Jr. during a public information session held at the Potomac Community Library patio, which drew a crowd of 150 children and parents. “They play all the time. The way we train them, it’s all fun for them.”
VanAntwerp answered questions – mostly from children – for about 30 minutes before providing a police dog demonstration. VanAntwerp and his partner, K-9 Hawkeye, were joined by K-9 Officer Jeffery Scott Morris and his partner, K-9 Murphy, and K-9 Officer Richard Bordenet and his partner, K-9 Axxel.
“These are working dogs, and yes, they do bite,” VanAntwerp answered one child. “Law enforcement is very dangerous and we go after the most dangerous people when we use these dogs. We teach them to apprehend a suspect. If somebody’s taking off. They’re trained to jump up and bite and take that bad guy to the ground.”
The Prince William County Police Department has eight police dogs, all of which came from Europe. Each dog gets 14 to 16 weeks of training in obedience and scent work to learn to track down and catch people who are suspected of committing felonies and violent misdemeanors.
Audience members got to see how the dogs obey commands and how they’re trained to track and take down suspects, in order to bring them to the ground and to keep their handlers out of harm’s way.
“We use them, first and foremost, to keep us safe and to keep the public safe,” Morris said of the police dogs.
VanAntwerp also told the children that the dogs get to go home with their handlers after a day’s work, and when they’re at home they act just like any other dog.
A police dog’s working life is eight to nine years, but some work longer. Police dogs get to go home and live with their handlers as family pets after retirement, VanAntwerp said. “They get fat and happy at home with the handler.”
Eric Brennan, a Sudley Elementary School student, said he enjoyed the presentation. “I thought the dogs were fun to see, and I thought what they do to hunt down criminals is pretty interesting.”
If you want to see for yourself, the Prince William County Police Department K-9 unit is putting on a second live demonstration and question-and-answer session at Chinn Park Regional Library, at 13065 Chinn Park Drive, at 7 p.m. Monday, July 28.