Oregon City School District partners with police to host Oregon Police Canine Association training

A small group of German shepherds and Belgian malinois wait patiently outside the old Oregon City High School Jackson campus building on a sunny Tuesday morning. They don’t bark at each other and, beyond a few curious sniffs, they’re incredibly well-behaved.

They’re trained to be and, technically, they’re working.

It’s a big day for the 120 dogs in attendance and for their police officer handlers too.

From April 14-16, the Oregon Police Canine Association hosted its spring seminar in Clackamas County. Hosted by the Clackamas County law enforcement agencies, with support from the Oregon City School District, K-9 officers and their handlers came from every corner of the state to train.

“We rotate every six months to a different jurisdiction,” said Oregon City Police Officer Dan Shockley. “We then try and find training sites that are really viable for 100 to 120 dogs, so it’s gotta be a larger area with lots of areas to train, which is why we get the benefits of using the high school.”

Shockley started Oregon City’s K-9 unit in 2003. His dog, K-9 Slate, is a blue Belgian malinois.

“When I was a younger kid in school I remember an officer bringing a dog to the classroom and I told myself, ‘That’s what I want to do when I (grow) up,’” said Shockley. “When I came to Oregon City, we did not have a program and I had to wait until about the three-year mark when I had the experience. It was just something I was motivated to do, something I loved and was passionate about.”

Eight training stations were spread throughout the old high school building, each with a different distraction, focus or area of training.

“When we all come together, it’s a collaborative effort to make everybody better across the state,” said Shockley.

The OPCA trainings bring police and their K-9s together twice a year to provide training scenarios that the dogs might not experience in their regions of Oregon. For example, police dogs that work in rural jurisdictions are often more adept at outdoor scenarios, while K-9s with the Portland Police Bureau may be better prepared for indoor searches.

The spring seminar training is divided into two sections – one for patrol dogs and one for drug search dogs. After the passage of Measure 110 in 2019, many police and sheriff departments retired their drug search dogs because of decriminalization.

Shockley set up his patrol training station in the old football locker room after a few dogs had run the training exercise, the scent of dog mixed with decades of sweaty helmets still stacked in a closet.

“He’s frustrated,” said Shockley, watching a police dog push his way underneath a constructed barricade. Shockley turned on two shower spigots in the locker room to purposely mask human odor and challenge the dogs’ aversion to water. In the tight confines of the room, the smell of the police officer, secure in a safety “bite suit,” ricochets all around and sends a trained patrol dog into overdrive.

“Dog work in general has always intrigued me, just seeing what these animals can do,” said Shockley. “It’s a lot of fun to watch the dog work and it’s exciting to watch them do their thing. It’s also really cool to have that connection between the community with the K-9 programs.”

Semi-annual OPCA trainings also help officers maintain police dog safety and procedures statewide.

“I think for the most part as a state we do a really good job of keeping ourselves up to a high standard. We have state standards and every dog, to be passed in the state of Oregon, has to pass that standard,” said Shockley. “We take pride that we’re very intentional about when and where we use our dogs.”

As the morning wore on, the humans, not the dogs, became more restless and excited for the donated lunch from the Oregon City School District. The district also got a local pet shop, Animal House, to donate five gift baskets for the participating police dogs.

Although the police dogs are highly trained and focused during training, everyone relaxed once it was time for lunch – the police officers with their pizza and the K-9s with chew toys.


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