Recently, CIA K-9 teams placed eight of the top 10 finalists at the United States Police Canine Association’s Certification and Trail in Gaithersburg, MD. A CIA Security Protective Officer (SPO) and his K-9, Coca, placed first. The event featured 23 K-9 teams from organizations in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and Washington, DC. Ten teams from the CIA’s Office of Security participated. Two Federal Bureau of Investigation teams—trained by the CIA K-9 unit training staff—also placed as finalists in the competition. CIA officers took first, second and third place in the team category.
The competition consisted of two phases: odor recognition testing and operational testing. The odor recognition portion required the K-9 teams locate six target odors in a circle of 18 gallon cans with no more than two false indications. The operational testing portion required the teams to locate five of six target odors in three areas: packages, rooms and vehicles. Judges evaluated effectiveness, search pattern, speed, accuracy and the handler’s participation in the search process.
Participation in this competition is an important training opportunity for CIA dogs and their handlers. Competitions give K-9 units a competitive and stressful situation to utilize their skills and work as a team, something that cannot be simulated in routine training scenarios.