The Red Wing Police Department has introduced its newest and furriest team member to the public.

K-9 Archie has been working to protect Red Wing since June 1. The 14-month old German shepherd Belgian-Malinois cross came to the United States from Slovakia. Archie was chosen by handler officer Andrew Dahl in January 2019, and they began a 13-week long patrol dog course through the Minneapolis Police Department. On May 30, Archie and Dahl graduated and began patrolling the streets of Red Wing.

Archie is currently the only K-9 at the Red Wing Police Department. Goodhue County Sheriff's Office, which shares a building with the police department, has three K-9s.

"I've never been a K-9 handler, this is all new to me," Dahl said. "I've learned a lot, it has been really fun."

Archie is a locating tool, whether it is finding a suspect, a missing child or an object used in a crime. His superior sense of smell allows him to track human odor and even disturbances in the ground. He is also trained in narcotics and will alert his handler if there is a presence of drugs.

"He is rewarded for it, for finding it, because ultimately what he wants is his toy," Dahl said.

Getting a K-9

Dahl saw an opening for a K-9 officer position, decided to apply and was selected. Dahl then was allowed to select the dog that would best fit him. He was shown three dogs and chose Archie.

The position is good for four years and can go longer if it is determined Archie is able to do so.

Dahl and Archie trained through the United States Police Canine Association for four days a week at Minneapolis' K-9 school. Agility, obedience, article search, criminal apprehension, handler protection and tracking were the core lessons they learned. Agility training includes learning how to jump hurdles, walking a catwalk and going through tunnels. All of these tasks must be completed in a certain way.

"There are a lot of deductions he could get if he were to go off on his own, or if he didn't do it one certain way," Dahl said.

For apprehension training, an officer plays the role of a suspect and takes off running with a bite sleeve on. K-9s are trained to chase and then bite apprehend a suspect by grabbing onto the person's arm. Archie knows to stop biting or stop his pursuit of a suspect if Dahl commands him to do so.

During articles training, Archie is required to find and return an object thrown into tall grass within a certain amount of time. For the handler protection training officers perform a mock shuffle, Archie must determine the suspect from the police officer and apprehend the suspect.

Dahl and Archie also will be required to complete at least 16 hours of training per month through the USPCA.

"It's just constant training that you got to keep up with," Dahl said.

Out on patrol

As a K-9 handler,Dahl gets a specially equipped police car that accommodates Archie. With a simple click on a remote Dahl can pop open the back door to quickly let Archie out if needed. Inside the car, Archie's cage is air-conditioned and contains a water bowl specifically designed to prevent spilling. The car even has a heat sensor. If it gets too hot inside, the windows roll down and the lights and sirens go off.

When Archie's shift is over he goes home with Dahl. On their days off, Dahl plays with Archie, socializes him to people and continues to train. When Archie is off duty he likes to go for walks to the park and play fetch with his Kong toy.

Between playing, living and working together Archie and Dahl's partnership continues to strengthen.

"The overall reward is to see how far he has come," Dahl said. "The first day I had him, I was like 'This dog isn't listening to me at all.' But now today he'll listen to commands and he is very obedient."


Fun facts about dogs' sense of smell

Dogs are able to detect odor in concentrations of parts per trillion.

Dogs' sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than the average human.

Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors, whereas humans only have 6 million.

Dogs have seperate airways within their noses, one is for olfaction and the other for respiration.

Dogs can tell which nostril is pulling in the scent. This helps them locate the source of the smell.


Source: PBS/Peter Tyson, Dogs' Dazzling Sense of Smell