New K9 teaches LPD to Tango
The Lewisburg Police Department has a new recruit.
He isn’t fully grown yet, and he only takes orders in Dutch, but Tango is ready to hit the street.
Tango is the department’s new K9 officer, a 19-month-old German Shepherd.
Tango and K9 officer Taylor Schoenberger have been on duty since the end of September, both getting used to their new roles.
The department added Tango to the force, as their previous dog, Iwan, who has served the department for five years, reached nine-years-old.
Iwan is semi-retired now but he doesn’t like it very much, according to his handler, Sgt. Shawn Crawford.
“He doesn’t know he’s getting a bit long in the tooth,” said Crawford.
Iwan still wants to come to work every day, Crawford said, but, as dogs get older, some of the physical work, like tracking or bite-work, gets too strenuous for them.
Crawford said that he still brings Iwan to the office some days just to keep him involved and that he is still on call for when the department needs another nose.
Crawford said that Iwan had been such a good partner that he couldn’t even think of taking on another dog.
That’s when Schoenberger stepped in.
He had worked with Crawford and Iwan since he has been with the department and felt ready to take on the challenge of becoming a dog handler.
Schoenberger traveled to a training kennel in Indiana, which imports European-bred dogs for law enforcement use.
Departments from across the country send officers to pick a dog that suits their needs from hundreds on hand.
The dogs are observed going through drug sniffing trials and bite work exercises, before being selected for some time with the potential handlers to assess their temperament.
Schoenberger liked what he saw in Tango.
“I wanted a big dog with a high drive and a younger dog too, so I could work with him longer,” he said.
“I’m paying for it now,” he added. “He’s young and you can tell.”
After a week or so back in Lewisburg to get familiar with each other, the pair returned to Indiana for six weeks of training to become familiar with each other.
“When I got him, he was ready to go,” said Schoenberger.
Potential police dogs come to the U.S. with some training already in obedience, tracking, drug detection, and bite work, but their training, and the handlers, never stops.
Schoenberger said he works with Tango everyday to keep his training sharp and work out some of his young dog energy.
After the constant physical and mental challenge of training, the dog can get bored riding in a police cruiser all day, he said.
“It’s doing something every day to keep him going,” he said.
Despite the constant work needed by a 70 pound German Shepherd, Schoenberger is enjoying handling a police dog.
Dogs serve as a strong deterrence on the street, he said, especially where narcotics are concerned.
“People know we have (trained dogs) and we use them a lot,” he said.
Area departments without dogs of their own request aid, when it’s possible, from Lewisburg’s K9 units.
Not every law enforcement agency can afford, or has an officer willing to take on the extra responsibility, acquiring and keeping a dog in service.
The benefits, however, go beyond simple police work.
“(Being a dog handler) gets you closer to the public and other departments,” said Schoenberger.
There are always people curious about police dogs.
“It shows a different side of what we do,” he said. “Everybody loves a dog.”