The world around us is full of stereotypes and the ongoing battle of “My breed of choice is better than your Breed of choice”. Unfortunately, this mentality has slowly found its way into the working dog world, creating The Battle of the Breeds. The American Kennel Club currently registers 189 dog breeds which is just a drop in the “Breed Bucket” when compared to the United Kennel Club which is an international registry that currently recognizes over 300 separate dog breeds. When it comes to choosing our K9 partner(s) we need to be honest with ourselves and think about a few things before looking at dogs: What is going to be the Dog’s main area of expertise (Detection/Dual Purpose, Tracking, Search and Rescue...etc), The area in which you work, Your level of knowledge and expertise in dog handling in your profession (If this is going to be your first K9 partner an imported Belgian Malinois or extreme working line German Shepherd might not be for you.) “ My personal experience has taught me there is no such thing as the Best working Dog Breed! ” says Retired U.S
Naval Chief Master At Arms/Kennel Master Ron Barton. “ Yes, there are basic ‘breed specific’ characteristics to go by when determining which breed you want for your specific mission, but there is always an exception to the rule. Not every single pure bred German Shephard or Belgian Malinois is going to be suited for Law Enforcement or Military work. For example: If you come from a long line of firefighters, it does not mean that you have got what it takes to be one yourself! We, of course can not for get about the cross breeds or mutts! Pedigree is important in certain aspects, but for me what’s important is what’s in the dog. Not what he / she is.” Barton has trained hundreds of dogs during his military career and has guarded some of the Nation's highest ranking officials with the help of his K9 partners. “ I, like most people, do have my favorite breed; the German Shepherd Dog, but it is my personal preference. However, I will not dismiss a dog’s possibility just because of its breed or pedigree (or lack of ). Many have fallen in to “ the working dog of the era ” fad and will only use a specific breed with a particular line and/or pedigree, no matter how good your argument is. I have always held true to the saying, 'It’s not the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog!' ” Barton has trained, handled and used on the real world streets several different types of dogs; he was candid enough to share stories about some of his most unusual K9 Partners.
“ While in Guam we had one of the best DDD (Drug Detection Dog) it was a Cairn Terrier. When he found the odor, he would work it back to its source and sit. He was so sure that you could pull him around on a slick surface while he maintained his ‘alert’. He would not break that sit response, until he got his reward. He was good for small ships, subs, and other restrictive areas. Yet most departments (the military included ) prefer a dual purpose dog. This way you get the detection and the patrol side in one dog, unfortunately small dogs are not very intimidating as a patrol dog. One story that defines the guide lines of “ breed abilities and stereo types ", is while I was stationed in Puerto Rico we were able to acquire an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) wash out and bring her in to the U.S. Navy for an EDD (Explosive Detection Dog) .
One of the 'breed stereotypes' alot of people go by is that ‘if you are going to have just a straight detector dog, use a hunting breed. They have better noses, this why they are used as hunting dogs.' While I do not disagree with this, it is not a hard fast rule. This particular dog was a German Shorthair Pointer with an out standing nose. Ginger was washed out of FAA, because they could not get her to go against her instinctual genetics, and ignore the birds. When she found the source of the odor she would respond with her infamous 'bird dog point' instead of the passive sit response that was required. We worked diligently with her and soon enough desensitized her to the distraction of the birds. Now when she would get distracted by the birds, her handler could get her to refocus back on her task. And as far as the infamous 'bird dog point', we got with our MWD (military working dog) LEPS Team (Law Enforcement Physical Security, K9 team certifying officials) and certified her as an EDD. Her final response was the infamous 'bird dog point'. We had an excess of EDD’s and LEPS had a slot on the west coast where her area of expertise was needed. Ginger went on to be come the #1 EDD on the west coast for the U.S. Navy.” Barton had more than 21 years handling and training dogs in the U.S Navy, before he retired and started his 13+ year career as a Law Enforcement K9 Trainer and Handler. “ My personal favorite is the German Shepherd. They are in general an intelligent breed, and one of the most versatile in the irability to be trained for a wide variety of jobs. Although, Iam not closed minded to the notion that German Shepherds are the best, and/or only breed for the job. One of my very favorite past K9 partners was a solid black Czech Shepherd, named Bond. He was sleek, beautiful, even tempered with a built in switch to go back and forth between his work mode and off duty mode with just a command. He was a DDD / PD and the perfect partner.
My current partner in training is to be a DDD/PD, a male Black Russian
Terrier/Belgian Malinois; Gabriel is confident with a great stable temperament, observant, energetic and courageous, only to top it all off with a great nose. He is the first of this type of cross for me and I am enjoying what both breeds brought to the table for this working combination." Barton also points out that Russia developed the Black Russian Terrier breed for use as military/working dogs in the 1940’s. During his time in the U.S Military Barton worked and studied with many world renowned animal behaviorists and psychologists. “ If you were to ask what breed is the best for tracking/ trailing, most thoughts would turn to the breed with the most notorious nose, and of course I am speaking of the Bloodhound! They do, as a general rule, have the best ‘nose’. However that does not mean they all do. I was privy to an off the books experiment just for K9 fun. A Bloodhound competed against a German Shepherd in a tracking exercise. Needless to say the German Shepherd put that particular Bloodhound to shame. His tracking pace was also quite a bit quicker. In the same respect I have also seen German Shepherds that could not smell a pound of hamburger at nose level if they walked right past it.” Barton also tells us that one of the first recorded attempts to use dogs to aid Law Enforcement in the apprehension of a criminal was made in 1869 by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police of London, Sir Charles Warren. The Commissioner had repeatedly failed at identifying and locating the legendary serial killer “Jack the Ripper”, he had even been denounced for not using bloodhounds to track the notorious killer. The commissioner quickly acquired two bloodhounds that had proven performance of simple tracking from the scene of another killer’s crimes to his location. However, the results were far from satisfactory for the Commissioner, with one of the hounds biting him and both dogs later running off, requiring a Law Enforcement area search to find them. Barton uses this story to teach people that choosing our K9 partner should be a lengthy process. Testing and evaluating the dog properly should be the first priority, along with making sure YOU will be able to work TOGETHER as a TEAM. " Choose the right dog for the job and never set your 4 legged partner up for failure. Continually and proficiently train and never stop learning. That is how you will be successful on the real streets." - Ron Barton