- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - It’s hard to determine if his bite is worse than his bark since his mere presence can subdue even the most desperate suspects.

Whatever his tactics, there is no doubt that Magnum, a 95-pound Russian-born, long-haired German shepherd, will be missed by his fellow officers when he retires this month from the Rapid City Police Department.

“It’s hard not to be influenced by him,” Officer Sean Doyle said while glancing at his partner of the past four years. Magnum’s enthusiasm for the job is contagious, he said.

At Doyle’s invitation, the 10-year-old Magnum poked his massive brown and black head through the opening between the cage and the front seat of the K-9 Unit with puppy-like eagerness.

The duo, one of the Rapid City Police Department’s three K-9 units, was a couple hours into a 5:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift earlier this month. As a roving unit, Doyle and Magnum cover miles of city streets, listening to scanner traffic and prepared to assist other officers.

“We’ll go wherever we’re needed,” Doyle said.

Elsewhere in town, a second K-9 unit was on patrol on this “Power B” Monday-through-Friday shift. The third unit works a day shift. But the teams also are on call 24/7. Doyle and Magnum’s best on-call response time was 17 minutes, he said with pride even though he knows he’s not the one they are calling.

“They don’t want me. They want the dog,” Doyle said with a wry grin.

With his imposing stature, Magnum is a “force multiplier” in any confrontation, Doyle explained. Magnum is bigger than his K-9 counterparts - Jackson, a Belgian Malinois, and Xander, a Dutch shepherd.

After 16 years on patrol, Doyle said he has encountered many angry people who feel fed up with life or their situation and respond to officers with a “just shoot me” attitude.

“But I’ve never had somebody say ‘send in the dog,’” Doyle said.

Magnum’s deep-throated bark has prompted many a suspect to give up without a second thought.

“He has a formidable presence. He’s hairy and mean looking. We get a lot of compliance. There’s a lot of attitude changing,” Doyle remarked.

When he arrived in 2006, Magnum was the third dog to join the department.

Like all of the department’s K-9s, Magnum is a dual-purpose dog as his sensitive nose can detect narcotics as easily as suspects who are hiding in buildings or in an open field.

And he’s terrific at “article searches,” finding anything touched by human hands. Once he locates the object, Magnum will sit or stand beside it. It’s great when a key piece of evidence is tossed into a ditch or if a police officer loses keys during a chase through a field, Doyle said.

When it’s necessary, Magnum detains a suspect or protects his partner. He was originally trained to use “bark and hold” tactics, meaning he barks, then bites and then hangs on, Doyle said.

The preferred training standard today is for a dog that barks and then reacts with short quick bites.

Age is starting to catch up with Magnum, however. He’s got a little arthritis and his hips aren’t quite as solid, Doyle said. It’s time to slow down and shift positions at the Doyle household from working dog to family pet.

Magnum’s replacement is expected to arrive this month. The dog will be “young,” between 14 and 16 months old. Rapid City police prefer German shepherds, Belgin Malinios or Dutch shepherds, Doyle said.

South Dakota’s Drug Control Fund will help cover the $9,250 purchase price. Doyle and the dog will attend a dual certification course offered by the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office in Gillette, Wyo. It will cost another $2,500 for the extensive training, according to the Rapid City Police Department.

The new dog will be a “working dog,” Doyle said. “I’m looking for a partner not a pet.”

Magnum’s steady, calm demeanor makes him an easy dog to have in the house, Doyle said.

Magnum, however, will still be a “working dog,” Doyle said. The training and drills will not be as extensive, but Magnum will have the daily thrill of finding missing items on command and doing brief workouts with Doyle.

And, as always, he’ll settle for Doyle’s praise and a tussle with a chewie toy or a worn piece of fire hose.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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