Taking a bite out of crime with Whistler's police puppy trainer 

RCMP Const. Paul Baker is tasked with training some of Canada's youngest four-legged crime fighters

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRANDON BARRETT - RUFF Job Whistler RCMP Const. Paul Baker with Grinder.
  • photo by brandon barrett
  • RUFF Job Whistler RCMP Const. Paul Baker with Grinder.

Whistler's littlest crime-fighter-in-training probably doesn't instill fear in the hearts of bad guys quite yet, but, if all goes according to plan, the 16-week-old German shepherd will be hitting the streets and protecting Canadians before you know it.

Grinder is the newest face around the Whistler RCMP Detachment after arriving for duty only two months ago. This bundle of energy is now under the care of Const. Paul Baker, who volunteers his free time preparing the police pups for an intensive training program in Alberta — that is, if they make the cut.

Baker will care for Grinder day-in and day-out for about a year, introducing him to the basics of life as a working police dog to see if he has what it takes to take the next step.

"My job with these dogs is to expose them to as many things as possible, so when the handler gets it, the dog isn't going to freeze," Baker explained.

That means ensuring the puppies are as well rounded as possible, instilling the foundation for an effective police dog: controlled aggression and basic tracking and criminal apprehension skills.

If Grinder shows promise, he'll then be shipped to Innisfail, Alta. where he will undergo three levels of rigorous training, which usually take about a year to complete. If he passes a series of tests and demonstrates the right qualities, Grinder will either be matched with a handler dependent on the RCMP's needs, or sold to another police agency.

So, what qualities does the RCMP look for in a police dog? Well, some of the same exhibited by the Force's two-legged members on a regular basis.

"We really like intelligence and drive," Baker explained. "We want a dog that's very driven, that won't give up even on a three-kilometre track uphill."

At four months old, Baker is pleased with Grinder's progress so far, and thinks he has the potential to earn himself an RCMP badge someday.

"For his age, I'm very happy with him," he said. "He's always moving and has tons of energy, so that's exactly what I want to see at this stage of the game."

And while Baker has tremendous affection for the dogs he trains, the relationship he fosters with them is distinct from the typical pet-owner dynamic.

"I try to make it like a working-dog relationship as much as I can, so I get them used to spending time in vehicles and waking up at odd hours — things like that," he said. "They're not a pet, but at the same time you care for them and you love them just like they were."

Baker can't help but grow attached to his puppy pupils, and said he always feels bittersweet when sending them off to the RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre.

"It's really hard," he said. "The analogy I use is that it's like sending a kid off to college. You put all this hard work and time into them, and it's sad to see them go, but at the same time it's nice to see them move onto bigger and better things, helping our communities and Canada in general."

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