[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]W[/su_dropcap]orking dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but it is often the image of a German shepherd or Belgium Malanois that comes to mind when we think of K9s in law enforcement or military applications. Many dogs beneﬁt from having jobs, and certainly these breeds are at the top of the list, but they also readily bridge the gap between a home invasion and an invasion by a 3-year-old when properly trained and socialized.
FTI K9, a division of the Force Training Institute located in north-central Florida, is redeﬁning personal-protection dogs by selecting European-born German shepherds – carefully chosen from a network of the ﬁnest kennels in Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Austria – from elite bloodlines and tailoring their training. They use modern, reality-based methods backed by positive reinforcement, and speciﬁcally target shepherds with high intelligence and courage. What is also important to FTI is that the dogs must demonstrate an admirable temperament and dependability. These key traits can be the perfect base for a companion that is truly the family’s best friend and eager protector.
RAUL HERNANDEZ, a former K9 sergeant with a major US law enforcement agency, is the lead trainer for FTI K9. Hernandez is certiﬁed with Delta Society Pet Partners program and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He is also an instructor in law enforcement high-liability training, including defensive tactics. With over 30 years of experience working with canines, he has a worldwide reputation as one of the top importers, breeders and trainers of quality European German shepherds.
THE 32-ACRE FACILITY runs these dogs through all sorts of scenario training that mimics real life events. They are put through rigorous exercises that include agility, family protection, law enforcement and military applications, sport and obedience. They also use bustling Florida cities like Ocala, Gainesville and Orlando, which are often ﬁlled with tourists and high-energy activity, to acclimate them even further. Hernandez says that the physical aspect of a working dog is very important, but equally important, if not more so, is that their dogs must be loyal and trustworthy to the core for the families they will join and protect.
Hernandez says that positive reinforcement is key during training, and they ensure all of the dogs have fun and enjoy working with their handlers. They praise the dogs with food or a ball, depending on the dog’s motivational preference, and ensure they’re well socialized with people and taught manners so that they can seamlessly work in homes, oﬃces, warehouses – even yachts.
Whether you are taking on a birthday party with a dozen and a half 6-year-olds or securing the perimeter of a nuclear power plant, the trainers and K9s at FTI have a lot to share. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more info on FTI K9, you can visit them at ftik9.com.