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How are dogs like Yoda trained to aid law enforcement?

Yoda helped capture escaped murderer last week

  • Scott LaMar

Airdate: Monday, September 18, 2023

Yoda, a four-year-old Belgian Malinois, was instrumental in capturing escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante last week after a 12-day manhunt.

As Cavalcante attempted to crawl through underbrush, armed with a rifle, Yoda was released to pursue him. Yoda bit Cavalcante on the forehead and then latched onto his thigh and wouldn’t let go. It gave law enforcement time to catch up to Cavalcante and take him into custody.

Yoda’s heroics also brought attention to dogs trained to help law enforcement.


On The Spark Monday, Patrick Fitzgerald, owner of Keystone K-9 Services in Pottstown said dogs as early as eight or nine weeks are candidates to be trained,”There are some pretty big kennels across the country, private breeders who strictly sell military and police canines. But pretty much, right around that 8 to 9 week mark. The breeders, the trainers, they’re going in there looking to see what dogs have the best nerves, the strongest drive, the most tenacity, the ones with very high food drive and toy drive.”

Fitzgerald was asked how the dog are trained,”What they’ll do is they’ll start with food and then they build off of that to where they walk through a field, they’re dropping food at certain points, the dog’s tracking the scent and then is rewarded as he maintains the track. And then from there, you can transfer it over to articles of clothing. You can transfer it to blood. If somebody is looking for somebody who may have died and passed away, indications on that. Different aspects can be brought in once the dog understands the tracking and scent detection. A lot of people with narcotics, they also will use PVC tubes where there’s a scent of a narcotic and one of 5 to 7 tubes. When the dog hits an alert to the correct tube, a ball comes out, and that dog is then rewarded for making the correct detection when it comes to the apprehension aspect. You’re building the dog. In aggression you want dogs start to understand that it’s more of a game. Then it is just being an uncivil, aggressive dog across the board. You want to be able to bring these dogs into a wooded area with multiple officers where the dog’s not just going to redirect onto them. So it’s all based on training of, okay, you’re finding the bad guys and the bad guys now your reward. For that apprehension. Yeah, I mean, a lot goes into it.”

How do the dogs keep from being distracted,”It really comes down to the drive and tenacity that they have. When you have a dog that’s so hyper focused with the training, wanting to engage with the handler, play, be part of the family, and then also turn it on and go onto the streets or into the field. They really balance it out well.”


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How escaped murderer Cavalcante was captured