//VPD introduces K-9 Axil

VPD introduces K-9 Axil

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The Valdosta Police Department has a new member on their team whose primary responsibilities include locating explosives and firearms as well as being a man’s best friend. K-9 Axil is a two-year-old German Shepard Belgian Malinois mix from Hungary. He is now serving as the partner of K-9 Handler Dominic Henry.

Officer Henry has long been a dog person, having a specific fondness for German Shepherds. At one point, he remembers his family having seven in the home when he was growing up, so being paired with Axil was the perfect match. Since joining the Police Department more than a year and a half ago, serving on the K-9 unit has been a goal of Officer Henry’s. “Going into this job, I thought this was always something I wanted to end up in, and luckily, I was able to talk to some of the handlers, and they gave me some advice. Then a spot opened up, and that is how I got paired with Axil,” said Henry.

Axil was picked up by Police Department staff from Daytona Beach, Florida, in January. He quickly went to work and has already completed a five-week K-9 school in Augusta, Georgia, alongside his handler. The course consisted of various tactics to understand how to look at your dog, read him, and learn when he detects explosives. Officer Henry describes Axil’s learning style as a bit softer, saying that he only needed to hear a command twice before responding. In contrast, other dogs in the program responded better to stricter tones. The two received the honor of ‘Most Improved Team’ in the class.

The training was just the first opportunity for Officer Henry and Axil to build their bond and learn each other’s personalities. As Officer Henry is Axil’s handler, it is customary for the two to share a home outside of work. When they are not working, the two enjoy playing fetch, going for walks, and hanging out around the house. Which, according to Officer Henry, is a huge blessing because it takes about six to nine months to solidify a bond with your dog, so every second counts. “Interacting with him and us having a bond, you can see the difference from the first day that I got him. He interacts with me more, and we get along great. I love him,” said Henry.

Working with a K-9 has been an enriching experience for Officer Henry so far. He is continuously impressed with Axil’s progress but says that Axil has taught him some new skills, like trusting his partner completely. “I have learned how to trust a little bit more. Obviously, I trusted all the guys on my shift, but with Axil, I now have to trust a partner that can’t speak. So now when he is telling me something with his body language, I have to pay attention, and that is just a part of knowing your dog and training with them so you can read all their signs,” he said.

Though it may be exciting to see the handlers out with their dogs, Officer Henry does offer helpful advice to anyone that may see them out in public. Officer Henry suggests never approaching a K-9 without the handler’s consent. Each dog’s temperament can vary along with its reaction. More often than not, there is no issue with the occasional pat on the head, but it is essential to ask permission first and remember that the dogs are working, so it is crucial for them not to be distracted.