Date: June 12, 2014
Place: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Canine Training Center, Front Royal, VA
Interview: Bridget Hillard, Canine Handler
Meet Bridget, a canine handler with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. She trains dogs to search and find illegal drugs and gives tips for training your dog.
In this episode, we visit the Canine Training Site, which is part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. These working dogs are trained to search and find illegal drugs. Meet Bridget. She helps train the dogs for working at airports, vehicle stops and other U.S. border locations.
Our agency [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] usually sticks with Labs, German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois. They usually have a higher drive and they're more motivated to work.
We do a 12 weeks training with them. During that 12 weeks, we'll introduce them to a lot of different environments [locations]. We start training them on the illegal drug odors and once they get really well, good at that, we bring in the handlers [officer that directs the dog]. We team them up with certain dogs on personalities and where they're going [where the dog will be working]. And then for another 7 weeks, they train with that team handler. After that, once their 12 week is over, they'll go out into the, all across the nation into the workforce.
What's your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part is when my dog does find illegal drugs. It makes all our practice and hard work that we put into it pay off.
Any tips for training dogs?
My #1 tip would be to be consistent. For example, when you're trying to play a sport like baseball, you gotta do a lot of practicing to get better. And the same thing with your dog; he needs a lot of practice and encouragement [praise] to get better.
I would have to say the easiest thing in training a dog with would be verbal praise [let the dogs know they're doing something right] and then a reward system. That could go anywhere from a plastic pipe to a rubber hose. The praise, it just stimulates [energizes] them. Every dog works for it; they want to make their owners happy. So they work hard for that.