During play time at Topaz Park

During play time at Topaz Park

Sniffing out the bad guys

Top police canine teams face off in Saanich for national competition

In May, two bicycle thieves found themselves hiding in tall grass, along the pitch-black Pat Bay Highway near Elk Lake after Saanich police descended on the area.

It was a good hiding spot from flashlights, but no so much from Zeke the police dog. The five-year-old veteran quickly sniffed out $40,000 worth of stolen gear and the suspects themselves.

“Zeke located all the bikes and wetsuits stashed away and continued on the track,” said Saanich dog handler Const. Jon Zielinski. “There were speedy arrests that night.”

Zielinski and Zeke are the defending general-duty champions for the Canadian Police Canine Championships, hosted by Saanich police this weekend. More than 30 police dog teams from a dozen police agencies between Victoria and Montreal will be put through the paces in a friendly competition.

Seven scenarios emulate what might be encountered on a typical police shift: general tracking, evidence search, compound search and building search, and obedience, agility and catching a “bad guy” in a bite suit. A separate arm of competition is held for drug and bomb sniffing dogs.

Competition Friday and Saturday is closed to the pubic, as the searches are in private buildings and fenced compounds. The event is open to the public Sunday at the University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium for the obedience, agility and dramatic dog suit take-downs.

Zielinski and Zeke train for the competition daily, dividing time between each of the seven challenges.

A session could be as simple as Zielinski walking around a park and hiding typical evidence like a wallet or a glove, and Zeke’s rubber ball.

“I’ll walk, change direction, drop evidence and hide his ball and wait 35 minutes, which represents the time delay on the street,” he said. “Zeke will follow the odour to the ball. It’s a big game for him.

“The key for any dog training is to make it enjoyable for them … it’s why I place his ball at the end of a trail. He loves his ball, it’s his favourite thing. In the absence of a real person, the best thing is his ball.”

Training is also elaborate, involving volunteers who don bite suits and hide in the bush or in donated commercial buildings. Zielinski said finding volunteers is “surprisingly easy.” Officers looking to join the canine section put in time volunteering as targets as part of learning the craft.

“Anyone in a dog unit spends time doing this, they put in hour after hour after hour of volunteer time to help the canine unit,” he said. “I did it for years before I joined. You learn to be comfortable around these dogs. It’s a lot of fun.”

Zielinski isn’t allowed to have any early knowledge of the competition venues, but he said Zeke remains a strong all-around, highly motivated tracking dog.

“Not much will stop Zeke as long as he has time to do a methodical search,” he said.

“The track is either there or it isn’t. From any crime scene with a person on foot and a short time delay, more often then not a dog will find a track to evidence and ideally, the person who did the offence.”

Fellow Saanich officer Const. Justin Whittaker and his dog are also competing.

“Saanich is the only Greater Victoria team. It would be nice to have better representation. It’s disappointing to say the least,” Zielinski remarked.

The public are invited to watch the competition at Centennial stadium on Sept. 22, starting at 9 a.m. Entry is free.

See cpca2013.blogspot.ca.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria police will be working to arrest as many people with active warrants as possible during #VicPDWarrantWednesday May 12. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police aim to make mass arrests during #VicPDWarrantWednesday

Officers working to locate people with active arrest warrants

According to Statistics Canada, Greater Victoria’s unemployment rose half a per cent to 6.2 per cent in April 2021 compared to the previous month. (Black Press Media File)
Unemployment in Greater Victoria continues to rise

April figures peg local unemployment at 6.2%

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

Rendering of a possible amphitheatre on the bluffs at the south end of the Royal Beach development. (Seacliff Properties image)
Colwood signs development agreement for Royal Beach at old quarry

Plan includes 18 hectares of park, 2,850 homes and lots of retail

Passengers onboard WestJet flight 3116 from Victoria to Calgary May 5 may have been exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
New flight exposure reported between Calgary and Victoria

Passengers on WestJet flight 3116 May 5 affected

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

A Nanaimo RCMP officer is recovering after his patrol car was hit by another vehicle at an intersection on Monday, May 10. (Photo courtesy Julia Rose)
RCMP vehicle broad-sided in Nanaimo intersection crash

Police officer recovering at home following collision Monday

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. Indigenous leaders are calling for an investigation into the conduct of Mounties on Vancouver Island after two police shootings of members of a small First Nations community in three months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Indigenous leaders call for clarity, investigation into RCMP after B.C. shooting

The RCMP declined to comment on the requests by Indigenous leaders

Colleen Price, Vancouver Island University’s bachelor of science in nursing program chairperson, says she is impressed with how students have persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Next generation of B.C. nurses already showing resilience

University program head says learning had to be adjusted amidst pandemic

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old B.C. bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Most Read