On Monday afternoon, MacDonald pinned the collar of his K-9 partner, Steeler, with a constable badge during a ceremony with Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais to honour the force’s eight canine members.
“We’re really excited,” MacDonald said on the steps of the Gottingen Street headquarters as Steeler lay down a couple feet away.
“It’s a closer bond because we’re very much a team. We’re very much dependent on each other.”
The German Shepherds are purchased from a broker in Europe for around $8,000 when they are 12 to 16 months old, MacDonald said, and their police handler trains them for the next six months until they are ready for active duty.
The K-9 position is a “sought after” one, MacDonald said, although there’s a lot of effort that goes into working with a dog 50 to 60 hours a week on top of living with them.
“Fitness is very, very important for them … When we track, he’s pulling me,” MacDonald said.
Blais said the event had been planned since there had been some “badge envy” around two police horses receiving badges while the dogs didn’t have any.
“It only made sense that they would also receive a badge for the excellent work that they do,” Blais said during the event.
The dogs are certified in tracking, article searching, building searching, and apprehension, Blais said. Four dogs are also certified in narcotics detection, and three in “explosive ordinance” detection.
MacDonald said while Steeler might get a Timbit for a job well done now and then, he shies away from teaching him tricks because it’s important the dogs see their police work as “play.”
“We don’t want to change that in any direction,” MacDonald said. “The capture is the reward.”