Const. Rachel Suttie uses food to train Kandy, a 10-week-old German shepherd and one of the latest litter out of the RCMP’s police-dog training program in Alberta. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Young White Rock RCMP recruit doesn’t know the meaning of ‘no’

‘Their purpose is to work, and they love it’

If strong-willed, curious and energetic are good traits when applying to the RCMP, a young keener spending time at the White Rock detachment these days has them down to a tee.

And while it may not sound like it, it’s definitely an advantage that this recruit also doesn’t know what “no” means – and isn’t expected to.

“That’s actually a word we’ve taken out,” Const. Rachel Suttie explained last week, of a rule followed during imprinting of potential police-service dogs like Kandy, the 10-week-old German shepherd temporarily in her care.

“If someone screams ‘No!’ at a police dog, you don’t want (the dog) to react to that. We want them to be outgoing, fearless.”

To that end, imprinters are tasked with familiarizing the dogs in their care with all manner of places, people and situations. At any time, working police dogs can be called on for anything from tracking a suspect through dense brush, to sniffing out a variety of drugs or looking for bombs, and they must be able to handle it all.

Kandy’s path started on Oct. 27, when she was born at the Mounties’ police-dog facility in Innisfail, Alta.

She was placed with White Rock RCMP Const. Teresa Carter – whom Suttie describes as “one of the most experienced and senior imprinters in the Canada-wide program” – 2½ weeks ago, and will remain in her care, with the exception of temporary breaks such as this month’s, until she is 18 months old. At that time, Kandy will return to Innisfail for basic training.

If successful – statistics show only about one in 17 of the dogs are – she could remain in active service until she is about eight years old, the average age of retirement for police dogs.

Suttie, 34, has been an RCMP officer for a decade – the past 3½ years in White Rock – and began volunteering as an imprinter about four years ago. Her first trainee, Enno, was sold to the Lynnwood Police Detachment across the U.S. border in Washington, where he continues to be on active duty.

Her sixth dog, Jax, headed back to Innisfail yesterday (Tuesday) to start basic training.

There are currently approximately 170 RCMP dog teams in Canada; the cost to train each team is estimated at $60,000.

Two days into her time with Kandy, Suttie was optimistic the rambunctious purebred would make the grade.

Friday, the eager pup showed no fear when placed on tables, and didn’t hesitate to climb onto and along a concrete ledge outside. She participated with gusto in games of tug-of-war, her high-pitched, excited-puppy noises echoing through the detachment halls.

Part of the draw, of course, was the tiny treat that Kandy had quickly learned was in Suttie’s hand for her after every task.

“At this age, they’ll do almost anything for food,” Suttie explained of the training technique.

Suttie said police dogs live outside, are crate-trained and don’t roam free. They know that when they come out, it’s to work, she said.

Describing Kandy as “from the get-go… very strong and confident for her age,” Suttie said the toughest part of working with the dogs is when it’s time for them to leave.

“The hardest part is saying goodbye, definitely. You really develop quite the relationship with all these dogs,” she said.“They’re all very different, but they’re unique and they’re fun and they’re loyal – just like a pet even though they’re not a pet, because their purpose is to work, and they love it.

“Knowing that they’re doing what they love at the end of it, is the best feeling.”


Const. Rachel Suttie with Enno, the first dog she imprinted for police work. (Contributed photo)

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