Most dog owners know if you ever need someone to listen, talking to your dog is the easiest decision to make. It’s not like the dog will do what many people do; pretend to listen while really just waiting for their turn to speak. For Sergeant Jake Resch, his reliable confidant during his regular shifts with the San Diego Police Department is his canine partner, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois police dog named Dusty.
Being an active listener to an American cop is worth commending, considering Dusty’s first language wasn’t even English. Most police dogs hail from Europe, and Dusty received his initial training responding to Czech. Jake had to learn a litany of commands as he formed a working bond with Dusty. The Czech command for sit is the word sedni (pronounced “set-nee”). The bark command speak is jiekej.
Not that Dusty speaks very much. Jake’s lost count of how many times people don’t realize there’s a dog in the back seat when they approach the vehicle. Dusty has a laid-back demeanor when he’s not in work mode, and he usually refrains from barking. That is, as soon as Jake makes a call. “He’s got a habit of barking as soon as I key the radio.”
Dusty’s laid-back demeanor often crumbles the moment other members of the squad give him attention. “He’s a friendly and social police dog, but at 95 pounds, he’s on the larger end for his breed and he doesn’t seem to know how big he is,” Jake says. “If you’re not quick enough to pet him, be prepared to find him with his paws on your chest. And when he runs around inside a building, I hope to God there’s nothing fragile in there because he’ll probably run into it.”
When Dusty switches his work drive on, it’s time for business. The loveable canine companion persona becomes a laser-focused, disciplined dog trained to get the job done. In the four years Jake’s worked with him, Dusty’s shown considerable success in the field. He’s help chase down and apprehend suspects, and he recently achieved certification as an article detection dog. Jake likens Dusty’s ongoing training to maintaining a knife’s edge. “In order for that tool to be effective, you have to sharpen it. The best way to keep the dog sharp is to work on his skills every day. He’s got a strong drive, and he picks up new concepts quickly. We like to joke that if he could learn how to drive, I’d be out of a job.”
Jake likes to address a number of misconceptions about canine law enforcement pervasive among the general public. “People think we’re training a police dog into a vicious animal and sending Cujo into the field to tear you up. That’s just not the case.” Jake points out that using dogs is a humane and less-than-lethal tactic in police work. By adhering to strict bite training and other professional standards, the statistics show that policing with dogs is a safer method than employing tasers and other non-lethal options in an officer’s repertoire of tools.
At the end of the work day, Dusty comes home with Jake. Just like you’d expect from many hard working police officers at the end of the day, Dusty goes home to a family and settles into a comfortable routine before doing it all again the next day. At work, Dusty is a sworn (so to speak) officer of the San Diego Police Department. At home, Dusty is the family dog, where he spends time with Jake’s two sons and his wife, who also works in law enforcement. In this way, the bond between officer and dog strengthens. even when taking a break from police work for a few hours.