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New York State K-9 Training Unit Turns Impossible Puppies Into Good Boys

Photo c/o : NYS Governor's Office
Photo c/o : NYS Governor’s Office

Walter was just a German Shepard mix puppy who needed a good home.
By the time he was a year old, Walter had gone from home to home trying to find a family that could handle his energetic self. According to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands, NY, Walter kept getting returned because of unreasonable expectations, meaning he was becoming just too much to take care of.

It is no secret that dogs are naturally highly energetic and need a healthy outlet to release some of their energy. Without a way to release this pent-up energy, puppies can become destructive, anxious, and act out at home and against their owners. This is exactly what happened to Walter, so to keep him busy and get rid of some of his energy the volunteers at the Humane Society decided to enroll him in ScentWork.

ScentWork is a sniffing sport for dogs that mimics the work of bomb detection canines. According to Marguerite Pearson, the Humane Society spokeswoman, they enroll restless dogs into these programs to see if they would be good candidates for potential arson and bomb work down the line.

“Wherever we see dogs that are very ‘drivey,’ as we say, we think of these roles for them,” Pearson explained to the Times Union “They are the kinds of dogs that need a job and a lot of activity to be truly happy.”

Walter excelled at ScentWork, so the shelter called the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control to see if they could find a permanent position for him. They did and immediately enrolled Walter in the state Academy of Fire Science, and he recently graduated with five other police dog trainees, who were donated by local animal shelters.

What’s great about this class of graduates is that the majority are not pure breed. There is a misconception that police and arson dogs can only be pure breed due to pure breeds having exceptional scent skills, but these five pups really change this belief. The proud graduates are as followed:


    • Walter, a German Shepard mix, who will work for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.


    • Zena, a German Shepard mix, who will work with the Albany Office of Fire Prevention and Control.


    • Bucca, a Labrador Retriever mix, who will work with the New York City Fire Department.


    • Char, a Labrador Retriever, who will work with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department.


    • Axe, a Labrador Retriever mix, who will work with the Erie County Sheriff’s Detective Office.


    • Roscoe, a German Shepard, will work with the Rockland County Sheriff’s office.

The dogs all had to complete an eight-week course via the state’s canine accelerant detection program. Along with their trainers, the dogs learned how to detect the scent of liquids and other materials commonly used in arson including gasoline and turpentine. The training also goes over a desensitized training to get the pups acclimated to riding in helicopters and boats, being in large crowds, and taking escalators.

They are also trained to sniff out certain dangerous elements, such as radon. Unfortunately, one-fifth of all U.S. homes are estimated to have radon levels at or above the EPA action level, and dogs like Walter are able to help rid the toxic chemical from the home.

The trainers aren’t just there to help the dog learn their duties — each trainer has to complete a course in canine health, nutrition, and how to give first aid to their dog if need be.

So, these dogs, who were once thought of as impossible cases, are now helping out communities all throughout New York State. And for that, they deserve an extra treat or two.