Puppy in training, Ventura County pup is almost ready for the K-9 unit

MOORPARK, Calif (KABC) -- Duke is an 8-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, and he is in training to become a human remains search dog in Ventura County. His handler, Mike Grossman, has been working with him since he was 8 weeks old when he first picked Duke up in South Carolina.

"So I knew right away I had the trouble child," Mike Grossman says, Head of Detection Services for Cal Search K-9 Detection and Training Academy.

That's because Duke has a lot of energy and wants to play or be a puppy all of the time. However, there is a job to be done so Grossman is still working to sharpen Duke's detection skills before he starts the pup's obedience training.

But the dogs with the most energy are usually what K-9 units are looking for.

"The easy dog that's kind of mellow and just chilled out, they make great house dogs...We want the dog that's full of life and full of drive, the one that does go out in the backyard and rips up the sprinklers," Grossman says.

According to Grossman the dogs who get bored easily with a lot of energy usually want to work, and have the most longevity in this field.

K-9 handlers go through a series of tests to see which dogs would be best for the job. One of them is by holding the puppy with their head upside down. If the pup is very confident they will usually be comfortable in this position and not budge.

The confident dogs are the ones that K-9 units want.

Another test is food related.

"We'll just put down a little bowl of food and the dogs will run. We want to see who controls the food, who's in charge," Grossman says. "Duke ran over to the food and laid on top of it. And no other dogs were really allowed to eat, he just laid on top."

Not all dogs pass these simple tests with flying colors the way that Duke did. Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States says on average 1 in 200 dogs qualify to be a search and rescue dog.

Duke has the energy and take-charge qualities of a good search and rescue dog, but he still has a couple of months for detection training and then a couple more for obedience training.
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