From Unwanted Shelter Dogs to Police K9

The PAWS shelter in Lynwood, WA is a haven for difficult shelter dogs. Overlooked by owners seeking calmer, tamer pets, these dogs are perfect for Melissa Larsen. Larsen trains dogs to detect bombs and do other critical search work as part of police K-9 teams. The program is made possible by Boeing’s generosity.

Boeing provides training space and access to the tools and training methods they use to train bomb sniffing dogs at no cost to police forces. Boeing believes this partnership works because they and police departments across the country have the mutual goal of keeping the country safe.

For the shelter dogs, this means a chance at a home and a job they’ll enjoy. Larsen screens the dogs by bouncing a ball through the halls of the shelter and observing which dogs take an interest. Some dogs become hyper focused on the ball. Those dogs are taken outside and asked to find the ball lodged in a chain link fence. The dogs Larsen seeks are so excited by the ball they engage their sense of smell and don’t stop looking for the ball until they find it.

The training program lasts ten weeks and uses tennis balls as a reward for dogs finding and alerting on the explosive scent. The dogs at PAWS have been bounced from shelter to shelter and often returned when an adoption didn’t go well. By getting them involved in the police K-9 program, Larsen offers them a new lease on life.

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Sarah Woodard is a freelance writer based in Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys bringing stories, issues and topics to life with words and pictures. In addition to writing, Sarah is a beekeeper, Reiki Master Teacher and black belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and playing with their four cats.

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