MIDCOAST—Meet, Dallas a Belgian Malanois, a breed known for their intelligence and loyalty. He is one of six new law enforcement teams of police and their canine partners that graduated from the State Police Canine School in late June.
After 14 weeks of training with his handler, Trooper Hunter Belanger, Dallas was ready to go home, and start his new job as a police K9.
Responsible for the Midcoast area of Maine (Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Waldo, Knox counties, the southern half of Kennebec County and part of northern Cumberland County) Trooper Belanger and Dallas may be seen from time to time in a cruiser— Belanger in the front, Dallas in the back seat.
“They have a very high drive, they love to work and they are very loyal and reliable,” said Belanger, of his new partner.
Historically German Shepherds have been the choice for police K9 training, but in this group, only one German Shepherd was trained along with two Dutch Shepherds and four Belgian Malanois.
“We’ve found that the Malamois breed has just as much drive as German Shepherds,” he added.
Each dog was selected for training through a breeder used by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and special care was taken to match each dog with the personality and temperament of each trooper as well as the dynamics of the trooper’s family.
“Some dogs are naturally calm, and some bounce off the walls,” said Belanger. “We had a special K9 Trainer who worked with each team, assessing each dog’s personality, not only with each trooper, but with the trooper’s family. Some law enforcement have young children in the family and you don’t want to match them with a dog that is super hyper active.”
Belanger lives with his fiancée, and with no children in the house, Dallas was the perfect fit for them.
“Dallas and I had almost an immediate bond, Once he saw me it was like he knew ‘this is my person,’ ” he said.
Belanger describes Dallas as a calm dog who is able to switch effortless between “work mode” and down time.
“He knows when it’s time to relax,” said Belanger.
Most their interaction is nonverbal and Dallas has been trained to differentiate when to be alert and when to be relaxed.
“They can read us better than we can read them,” Belanger said.
Not every person in law enforcement can handle or even wants a police-trained K9.
“It’s a huge commitment, because the training doesn’t stop outside the normal duties of patrol,” said Belanger. “Every day I go home after my shift, I work with my dog, keeping him proficient at his training. A regular dog owner on a day off can take his dog to the beach and relax. I have to go to the park and keep his skills up.”
In K9 Patrol School, the very first skill a dog learns is obedience to the commands of its master. A police dog must also make it through endurance and agility training. Next, comes specialty training with built-in scenarios.
In Dallas’s case he was specially trained in tracking and apprehension skills. For example if a suspect is trying to escape through the woods, Dallas will be able to track where that person went, find the trail and use force if necessary.
Dallas will always be at Trooper Belanger’s side during an arrest of a perpetrator.
“In one of the training scenarios we did, Dallas was by my side and we were going through the motion of patting down a hypothetical suspect, when the trainer made a sudden move and turned around to attack me,” said Belnager. “Dallas immediately sprang into action. Since dogs can’t use their paws to detain a suspect, they will use their jaws to apprehend him.”
The feeling of safety an officer gets from his police dog is immeasurable. When they work together, Dallas curls up in the back seat and only sits up and takes notice if Belanger stops the car.
Belanger said: “Maine’s a very rural place. When you think of police in Boston or D.C. there’s always two partners to a squad car. But here in Maine, you are largely alone and might be in a place where it takes 30 minutes to get back up. Dallas is my immediate back up.”
For the rest of his life until he is too old to perform his duties and retires, Dallas will be with Trooper Belanger.
“After he retires, and as long as everything goes right, Dallas is going to find a home with me and my family," he said.
So if you see Trooper Belanger and Dallas around in the Midcoast, remember, while Dallas is a beautiful and majestic dog, take care to approach and always ask permission prior to contact; after all Dallas is always on the job.
For more information on police K9 training visit: Maine Criminal Justice Academy
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org