GALENA–After 10 weeks of training, deputy Nate Furlong is looking forward to his first shift with Sam, his new partner. Sam is the Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Office newest K-9 unit, an 18-month-old Belgian malinois, and along with Furlong, graduated from the Illinois State Police’s K-9 Academy on Thursday, Nov. 1. Sam was chosen over six other dogs because of his drive and personality.
“Sam was a bit more social,” said Furlong.
Sam is a “green dog,” one that is untrained, said Furlong, and said he was impressed with how quickly Sam went from learning how to sit to tracking and takedowns.
“The first week started with the basics,” said Furlong. “I was surprised by how quickly he can be trained. The ways you can use him are unbelievable. ”
While the training was only 10 weeks, Furlong has been preparing for the last two years.
“I spent the last two years working the other K-9 handlers learning what it takes to be a handler,” said Furlong. “The more I did the more I became interested. I wanted to put the time in and when a spot opened up, I put in, was interviewed, and was selected.”
Through training, Sam and Furlong built a bond. Sam relies on Furlong for food, water and shelter, and Sam goes home with Furlong every day.
“He and I have a bond,” said Furlong. “I can influence him with my mood. Confidence in handlers transfers to confidence in the dog.”
Sam can pick up signs of aggression, said Furlong, and can sense when a situation is escalating. Furlong said above all else, Sam’s two priorities are the safety of Furlong and the safety of himself. Furlong said Sam is trained how to bite, and that police dogs are never trained to bite the head or neck, only large muscles, like the arms and legs.
Furlong said the key to training is making it fun for the dog.
“In his mind, every time he leaves the car we’re playing a game,” said Furlong.
To Sam, there is no difference between finding a suspect or a lost child.
“All he knows is when he finds that person, there’s a reward,” said Furlong.
The rewards is praise and a toy, said Furlong, and that the toy ranges from a plain tennis ball to a fire hose. Tennis balls do not last long with Sam, and for a tug toy, a piece of fire hose is used because of its high durability.
Furlong is ready to get started with Sam.
“It will be fun to see all the training pay off,” said Furlong about his first shift.