Exeter Township police pup places first in K-9 competition

Kaz is just like every other canine, working, playing ball and learning obedience skills, but differs in one major way -- he works for the police.

Exeter Township Police Department’s K-9 Kaz, 3, recently took first place at the K-9 Trials competition held at Salisbury Senior High School, 500 E. Montgomery St., Allentown.

This was the third year the competitions have been held, which gather teams from across Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware.

Exeter Police Department has four dogs, which they use to sniff out bombs, find someone in a home, find missing people or items.

As a police dog, Kaz does much work tracking for explosives, people and items, building searches, and practicing agility work.

The high energy dog, a Belgian Malinois /German Shepherd mix, is a special breed from Slovakia, new to the world of canines just in the last five years.

“It’s a new thing for police departments to have dogs in the United States,” Exeter Police Officer Terry Reichart said. The Solvikan breed was created especially for police departments as, according to Reichart, is quite a “high-strung, loyal, and a good work dog.”

Police dogs started being active in the police force when Homeland Security phased out their dogs. Homeland Security now offers grants to local police departments to utilize police dogs on their force.

With the agreement, if Homeland Security needs the use of a K-9, they can contact the local department for use of their dog.

As a way to honor fellow K-9 explosives handler, Berks County Deputy Kyle Pagerly, Reichart entered for the K-9 Trails competition. Pagerly was killed in action in June 2011.

“This was the first time I’ve entered into any type of competition,” Reichart said. “Pagerly was in our county and also was a fellow K-9 explosives handler.” Reichart and Pagerly trained together on explosive searches.

There were five parts to the competition including fastest dog, agility, obedience, call-off (where the dog gets points for getting close to the target without biting him) and 2-man apprehension (sending dog on second target when he’s already with a first target). Every competition was timed.

“I went there just to see how he would do,” Reichart said. “Kaz took 1st place for fastest dog, 1st place in obedience, 3rd place for the two-man apprehension, and 1st place overall.”

“I was proud of him,” the officer said.

Kaz has now been working on the street for two years with Reichart. But Kaz isn’t Reichart’s first dog, as he has been a K-9 officer for the past 10 and a half years.

Reichart’s first dog, Vin, was two and a half when he was placed with the officer, and the dog had already been trained. Kaz was 11 months old when he was brought to the United States, and worked with Reichart for training.

When Reichart first got Kaz, he says his first job was to bond. After 10 weeks of training, the two were ready to work.

Training for the police dogs is constant to “keep him acclimated to the fact that he might have to jump over a wall, or jump through a car door window. The police station has an area specifically for training, with an obstacle course with a variety of tasks for the dogs. “We’re always working... we’re constantly training, three days a month we train,” the K-9 officer told The Southern Berks News.

In addition to the on-site trainings, the dogs also visit Castle’s K9, 1291 Leidig Dr., Mechanicsburg, for training through the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA).

“I’m amazed every day at the things these dogs can do,” Reichart said.

As a K-9 officer, Reichart has Kaz with him all the time, even at his home.

“He’s very good at home, he’s like a puppy,” the officer said. “Kaz stays at home...but it’s hard for him to relax, he lays for a little but he’s nonstop energy.”

“As soon as I grab that collar, he knows it’s time for work,” Reichart said.

Kaz works when Reichart works, which means a work schedule of 12-hour shifts working either 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or vice versa. Kaz is a professional when it comes to police work as the shift change of night to day schedule alternates every two months. “The change of shifts doesn’t bother him,” his owner stated. “My old dog would throw up every night for a week just adjusting to being awake at night.”

As a K-9 officer, Reichart’s police car must be equipped for Kaz. Each K-9 vehicle has a “hot dog system.” A thermometer can be set by the officer so that when the backseat gets too hot, the windows automatically go down and the fans turn on for the police dog in the back. And from 100 yards away, Reichart can operate the car door, opening it up to release the dog.

A common misconception about the dogs is how they track. It’s bloodhounds that track with the smell of an item, where a German Shepherd can be put in the area of the missing person, and follow their smell and crushed vegetation to find the target.

Through the decade of working with the K-9s, Reichart has realized that he “never want to see the K9s leave, I take it for granted sometimes. It’s unbelievable the things we do with these dogs every day.”