At a 1,200-acre facility in Morrow County, dogs are put to work.
In his 27-year career, Gerrard Azzi has trained more than 1,500 dogs to sniff out drugs, explosives and find missing people.
Azzi of Azzi International Services for Dogs in Mt. Gilead said that not just any dog can become a police dog. But Azzi says he can spot the skilled ones within days of arrival at his facility.
Most of the dogs at Azzi’s facility are flown in from European breeders and can cost up to $10,000 each to train over an 8-10 week period.
Only 2 percent of dogs have what it takes to be a police dog, said Azzi. And he looks for specific characteristics the moment training begins for each dog type.
“Be it for narcotics, explosives to a degree, the cadaver dog, the same thing for detection dogs, is the hunt, play and retrieve drive,” Azzi said.
The dogs have to undergo constant training to keep up with changing threats.
“We’ll see a certain type of prevalent explosive being used in certain areas,” Azzi said. “You train a little more for that type. Stuff is refined, a new product is produced, so you have to train the dog constantly for the product that is out there.”
Azzi said that he trains his dogs on his large farm-like property to be able to simulate different situations and atmospheres.
According to Azzi, each type of police canine must learn different moves to serve and protect.
“I like a drug dog, really really intense, and hunt drive is real high,” Azzi said. “Explosive dogs have that same retrieve, but I want it more methodical, if you will, a lot more detailed, slower. Are we hunting for a pound of marijuana or a pound of C-4 (explosive).”
It took between eight and 10 weeks for Genoa Township police’s Gandolf to learn how to sniff out drugs. Gandolf also learned when to bark and when to bite when hunting down a suspect– and when to be social, another key to police canine success.
Bosco, a Zanesville police dog, was shot in the line of duty three years ago. He was forced into retirement and now spends his days teaching students about the importance of his former job.
Several central Ohio police agencies, such as Columbus, Canal Winchester, Dublin, Hilliard, New Albany and Pickerington, use police canines. The Ohio State Highway Patrol, the U.S. Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, also uses K9s for patrols.
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