K-9 deployment with a carbine: Training for the extreme

As the crime trends across the country grow more and more violent each day, it is imperative for K-9 Units to stay progressive and continually improve their training and equipment

By Scott Clark
Police K-9 Magazine

Thousands of high risk K-9 deployments occur daily across the country and as a result place the handler, dog, officers and citizens at risk.  Deploying with all the proper equipment is a must for the K-9 teams and should not be taken for granted. However, one of the biggest obstacles we are presently faced with is determining if a tactical carbine weapon is best suited for a K-9 deployment.  As the issue is talked about from agency to agency, several questions and concerns arise.  For example, should the K-9 handler carry a tactical carbine on deployments? How will the handler carry a tactical carbine and still be able to work the dog effectively?  Won’t the carbine interfere with the operation? How can the handler properly control his dog and still be accurate with the carbine? Should the back-up officer carry the carbine instead of the handler? And, which carbine is best suited for a K-9 Officer to carry?  Due to the conflicting responses to the questions above, K-9 handlers and administrators are still uncertain if deploying with a carbine weapon will tactically work for their K-9 units.

As the crime trends across the country grow more and more violent each day, it is imperative for K-9 Units to stay progressive and continually improve their training and equipment. We must stay ahead of the curve to ensure that our technology and equipment provides us with the safest and most productive results possible. As I continue with this article, it is essential that you keep an open mind to the possibilities out there for the K-9 world. With just a little hard work and follow through, K-9 units will be able to acquire the necessary equipment needed to deploy in a safer and more discipline manner. The time is now that we take a progressive step forward in our training and tactics to better prepare ourselves for successful deployments with your carbine weapons.

Photo courtesy of Police K-9 Magazine

Establishing K-9 Training Standards with a Carbine
Implementing a Tactical Carbine training strategy for K-9 handlers and their canine partners is extremely important. Agencies should provide advanced training and incorporate standards with their selected Carbines for all of their K-9 teams, before they ultimately deploy with them. K-9 handlers should become highly competent with both the weapon and the application of dog and handler together as a team. It is important to demonstrate a solid working knowledge of the weapon to ensure positive success on actual engagements. From understanding the nomenclature of the weapon, to live fire drills with the dog, the training should be covered completely.

Initial training with the Carbine should be provided to the handler without the dog present. It is crucial in my opinion, that a minimum 40 hours instructional course be provided covering all the fundamentals of the weapon. In addition, live fire drills should be conducted under all shooting environments. Weapon malfunctions, reloading, transition drills, and tactical weapon handling should be completed in this course. This stage is extremely vital to the handler. If the handler can master the Carbine without issues, he will be able to add the dog into the equation effortlessly. Upon completing the initial training with the weapon, the K-9 handler should now be provided additional training time to combine the dog and the weapon together. During this training, I highly advise the use of a suppressor on your carbine to preserve the dogs’ hearing and safety. (The suppressor allows the handler to fire as many rounds needed without causing injury to the dog.) If no suppressor is available to you, you should minimize the live fire drills and spend more time on the tactical manipulation of the weapon with the dog present.

The following covers the necessary K-9 training standards that should be covered to ensure success with the Carbine:

  • Acclimation: The K-9 team (Handler and Dog) should demonstrate a confidence when deploying with the Carbine. No aggression towards the weapon, handler, or other officers will be accepted.

  • Socialization: The dog must demonstrate the ability to tactically move with groups of people, search with teams, and conduct vehicle assaults, in a non-aggressive manner towards himself and other officers.

  • Obedience: The K-9 team must demonstrate the ability to obey basic and advanced obedience commands (verbal or non-verbal commands) when deploying with the Carbine.

  • Agility: The K-9 team must demonstrate the ability to surmount or overcome a variety of different obstacles together during deployments with the Carbine.

  • Scent work:  The K-9 team must demonstrate the ability to conduct proper deployments with the Carbine to locate a "suspect," "subject," or "evidence". Proper search deployments will include: building searches, tracking, area searches, article searches, vehicle assaults, and swat operations.

  • Criminal Apprehension: The K-9 Team must demonstrate the ability to physically apprehend (bite and hold/bark and hold) a "suspect" while deployed with Carbine. Proper transition techniques and tolerance to gunfire must be demonstrated during all criminal apprehension exercises.

  • Handler Protection: The dog must demonstrate the ability to remain in a guard position while the K-9 handler engages a "suspect" with the Carbine. When the safety of the handler is threatened, the dog (without command) must demonstrate the ability to physically apprehend the "suspect". The handler will then have to demonstrate control with the weapon and canine simultaneously.

  • Tactical Movement: The dog must demonstrate the ability to obey advanced tactical obedience commands (verbal or non-verbal commands) during deployments with the Carbine. The K-9 team must be able to perform cover to cover movement, controlled dog to handler/ handler to dog movement, no breaks on gunfire unless commanded, tactical movement from various types of cover, and tactical moving with a swat team or arrest team.

  • Live Fire Drills: The K-9 handler must demonstrate proficiency while shooting live fire courses with the dog deployed.  The handler must demonstrate a working understanding of proper deployment tactics when shooting with the dog, control of the K-9 team during all drills, and successful apprehension of decoy(s) with the canine during the drills. Several courses of fire and training scenarios should be conducted at the K-9 Trainers discretion, all which must be performed at a skilled level.            

  • Transitions and Reloading Drills: The K-9 handler must demonstrate proficiency with weapon transitioning and reloading issues with the dog deployed. The dog must demonstrate confidence with the training and must not show any aggression towards the handler at any time.                       

K-9 teams should demonstrate proficiency on all performance objectives as each agency sets them. Routine monthly training should be conducted for all K-9 teams deployed with the Carbine. By doing so, achievement in all the advanced skills will be maintained and it will ensure continued effective performance with the weapon. All Carbine training and qualifications must be documented and should include information about the content of training, who participated in the training, where and when the training took place and who instructed the training. After initially qualifying with the Carbine, it is my opinion that additional qualifications should occur bi-annually. During this re-evaluation, handlers must demonstrate their ability to perform the skills needed to operate the weapon.

K-9 Benefits of Carrying a Carbine
A Carbine weapon offers K-9 units throughout the country an element that has not been totally achieved up to this point. It offers K-9 handlers an opportunity to carry a tactical weapon on all K-9 related searches increasing their rate of survival with any deployment. K-9 handlers are faced with several different responsibilities and tasks on a daily basis. Routine patrol calls, K-9 searches, in-progress calls, high risk felony stops, narcotics assaults, assisting other jurisdictions, and SWAT deployments are just a few examples of the multiple K-9 handler duties that are performed at an extremely high risk. Therefore, K-9 handlers should be provided the best equipment necessary, and that MUST include their firearms. 

For years now, I have been speaking with numerous K-9 Handlers, from all over the country, and there continues to be an abundant amount of questions and concerns as to what is the best tactical carbine to carry. Ultimately, it’s all going to come down to what weapon is the most comfortable, operational, tactical, and affordable for each K-9 unit alike.  After extensive research, operation, and firing of several tactical carbines (AR-15, AR-57, HK MP5, HK MP7, M4, SIG 556, FN FS2000), my agency completely supported our K-9 units choice of weapon, the MP7. For us, the weapons specifications and characteristics worked for what we were trying to accomplish.

I hope as you have read this article, you have become excited about the possibilities that exist for K-9 across the country. From K-9 Handlers to agency administrators, I challenge you to look at your current Carbine training standards and honestly determine if your K-9 teams are being properly trained and maintained completely. If the answer is no, then I highly recommend that you take a closer look at your training curriculum and develop a solid and thorough training plan. The benefits to a K-9 handler deploying with a tactical Carbine are enormous. Finally, K-9 Handlers have available to them several different types of Carbines that are highly effective. I hope that your agencies are supportive and provide you with the proper resources to achieve successful deployment with the Carbine weapons.

Scott Clark has been a Police Officer for the City of Coral Springs (FL) Police Department for 14 years, the past 11 years of which he has been in the K-9 Unit. He has been working and training patrol and detection dogs for the past 6 years. He is a certified State of Florida FDLE K-9 Team Instructor, K-9 Unit Head Trainer, SWAT K-9 Team Leader and Handler, Firearms Instructor and has trained numerous K-9 teams in South Florida. He is currently working his second duel-purpose patrol / narcotics dog, K-9 Mik.

Contact him at pdsdc@coralsprings.org

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