K-9 ‘bite work’
dominates final days
PUNTA GORDA — More than half the teams wrapped up their portion of the 2012 U.S. Police Canine Association’s National Field Trials on Wednesday, ending with the apprehension, or “bite work,” events.
But there’s still not a clear frontrunner and won’t be until later today, according to Punta Gorda Police Capt. Jim Nichols, who said the bite work is so crucial that teams with a points advantage going into bite work could come out the other side looking up at the all the positions they lost.
Whatever the outcome is, the bite work portion presented some of the most popular events for spectators, who turned out in droves to watch the trials at the South County Regional Park and Carmalita Field on Wednesday.
Punta Gorda residents Monica Tuttle and Ellen Corcoran pulled up a couple of chairs to take in all the action, and both were impressed by the level of training and trust between handler and dog.
“We wanted to come out and see these beautiful animals,” Tuttle said. “The way the dogs listen to the handlers is incredible.”
Like other events, points are deducted instead of awarded for the bite work, which means that teams
have to strive for perfection. Handlers are allowed only one command for each portion of bite work, which includes sending the dog out to capture a suspect who is fleeing.
Dogs are also tested on “recall,” in which the handler sends the dog after the suspect and then suddenly recalls the command. Dogs also are sent after a suspect who has fired a weapon, is apprehended, and then attempts to attack the handler.
Officer and K-9 handler Shaun Rice, from the North Port Police Department, said more than half the competition’s points are wrapped up in
bite work, and the difference between finishing first and 20th could be as little as a half-point.
North Port is representing not only its department but also the entire Region 1 K-9 team, which consists of teams from Florida, Georgia and Alabama, Rice said. He added that while every dog-and-handler pair
wants to win, even a top-20 finish at a national event is a big deal.
“Bite work can make or break you,” Rice said. “You can’t make up any of the points.”
The field trials will culminate in a public demonstration at Charlotte Sports Park today. Starting at
6:30 p.m., K-9s and their handlers will restage some of the events of the past few days, as well as performing skits and tricks to entertain the thousands that are expected to turn out, according to Nichols.
Nichols said the public demonstration is a big thank-you to the community, which has shown strong support during the trials’ run.
Nichols added that a K-9 from the Pensacola, Fla., Police Department suffered a pinched nerve while doing bite work at Carmalita Field Wednesday afternoon, but is expected to recover.