The Value of Police K9 Competition

Throughout the year, the USPCA conducts regional certification trials. The certification trials are not only for certification, but are also a competition showing who the best team in the region is.


In the United States there are thousands of canine units spread across the country.  For those that are not involved with canine, I want you to understand that both the canine and the handler must be trained and certified for one or more disciplines.  That training may come from in-house agency training or from an outside training facility.  When it comes to the certification, the canine and handler must be certified by a recognized canine association.  One of the largest and best known is the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA).  The USPCA is comprised of twenty-six regions, covering the entire United States.

With exception to a few handlers that I have known over the years, they have all wanted to be the best canine and handler team possible.  Being at the top of the game makes for more apprehensions, more drugs seized, and more explosives discovered which, in the end, makes for a safer environment for everyone.  Handlers take great pride in apprehending a wanted fugitive or finding a large quantity of narcotics, but those events can be hit or miss depending on where you’re located.  One of the best ways to show how good your canine unit is is through competition.  Do you think your canine unit is the best? Prove it in competition.

Throughout the year, the USPCA conducts regional certification trials.  The certification trials are not only for certification, but are also a competition showing who the best team in the region is.  The USPCA does certification for Police Service Dog, Explosive Detector, Accelerant Detector, Cadaver Detector, Narcotic Detector, Evidence Detector, Game Detection and Tracking.  The trend is to have a dual certified canine: Police Service Dog and something else.

After competing at the regional level and getting recognized as the best, or close to it, in your region, is that enough? Of course not.  Who wouldn’t want to compete at a higher level?  For those canine units that have competed in the Police Service Dog regional trials, they can move on to the National Trials if they have attained a qualifying score.  For the Police Service Dog trials, canine units are scored in five areas: Criminal Apprehension, Suspect Search, Agility, Evidence Search and Obedience.

To win the National Trials is quite the accomplishment, and gives you some tremendous bragging rights.  Every year the National Trials are held at a different location, but how are those locations selected?  Member agencies that are interested in hosting the National Trials submit a request to USPCA for consideration.  The 2013 National Trials will be held in Region 3, based out of Washington, D.C., and hosted by Charles County (MD) Sheriff’s Office.  I recently spoke to Captain Michael Rackey from Charles County Sheriff’s Office.  Captain Rackey stated that after USPCA has received all the host submissions, the USPCA then votes on which agency will be the host.  Captain Rackey expressed that it is an honor and privilege for Charles County to be selected to host the USPCA National Trials. 

This year’s USPCA National Trials are scheduled for September 30 through October 4, 2013.  It is estimated that there will be 125-150 police canine teams, their families, police administrators and thousands of spectators, from the United States and Canada.  They will be attending to compete and receive certification.  As previously mentioned, in order to compete, you must compete at a regional trial and qualify with a minimum score.  That being said, those competing at the National Trials are the best Police Working Dogs in Northern America.

Scheduled events include the five areas that they will be scored on, along with a huge public demonstration.  Whether you are involved in canine operations or not, you are strongly encouraged to attend and invite your family, friends and neighbors.  Most of what the public sees when it comes to police canines is on the news showing a suspect with a bite wound, and many times the media portraying the police as being out of control with our canines.  The more of the public that we can get to these types of events that sees for themselves the ability of these canines, and the control that the handlers have over those canines, the better we off we are. 

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