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DLPD Officer Robert Strand has new K-9 companion

After going through the summer with no dog, Detroit Lakes Police Department K-9 Officer Robert Strand is happy to have a canine companion once again.

Strand returned to DL Dec. 17 with his 3-year-old German Sheppard dog, Macho.

"He was the best bang for our buck," Strand said. "We got a good dog."

Since being trained with his first dog, Chase, Strand was able to speed up the process this time around. With Chase, Strand went through a 12-week training program in St. Paul. With Macho, he only had to be in Raleigh, N.C., about two weeks.

The department took a new route with Macho, purchasing the dog overseas. Macho was $6,800 and already trained to a level three. To purchase a dog domestically, Strand said it would have cost $6,500 with no training, while it would cost $5,500 overseas with no training. It then cost $3,000 more for the training of the dog and Strand's training with Macho.

As Strand prepared to do some fund-raising for Macho, the department was informed the insurance through the League of Minnesota Cities would cover the costs of the dog.

"What we do for work, they do for sport over there," he said. Being title trained "makes the turn-around time and training minimal."

He said the difference from when he went to train with Chase versus Macho was quite different.

Macho was already trained in tracking (picking up a scent and tracking a person), apprehension (finding a decoy and biting until commanded to let go) and obedience.

"His drive is a piece of cake," Strand said, meaning Macho isn't intimidated and has the confidence to go forward. Yet he has a softer side as well. Macho lies in the back of Strand's car and rarely barks, a slight difference from Chase.

A big difference in the training for the two together was basically confusion, Strand said.

At the St. Paul training with Chase, Strand was taught to keep the dog on the opposite side of his gun, his right. Macho was trained on his left side. Strand said he had difficulty getting Macho to heel or obey commands because of the confusion.

"I figured, why fix it if it's not broken," Strand said, so he adjusted to having the dog now on his left.

Although the two only spent a couple weeks together in formal training in North Carolina, training is ongoing for the duo.

"What makes a good team is repetition and training," he said.

Ten police dogs and K-9 handlers get together once a month at rotating departments to practice together. Strand also finds some of his co-workers are willing to take a bite now and then for training.

The DLPD dog is most often used for tracking people. He is also used for drug searches.

"Once you get a dog that knows how to track, it's fun," he said.

Once a drug task force officer is hired and works with the DLPD, Strand and Macho will work closely with him as well.

"It's time to crack down (on the increasing meth problem). Right now, we're fighting a losing battle," he said.

Strand said he is more than happy to come speak to groups and organizations and possibly do some demonstrations with Macho, depending on the surrounding circumstance.

Macho comes to work with Strand on his night shift and lives at home with Strand's family. Macho has his own area, with a heated kennel. Strand said that, basically, Macho isn't in the house for two reasons -- the Strands have two small children and not enough room, and also, Macho is not a pet.

Defining that line between pet and co-worker can be hard though. When Strand's first dog, Chase, died, it was like losing a pet.

"It was the most devastating experience I've had," Strand said of losing his partner.

But that foundation with a good dog was built, and now Strand and Macho are ready to build on their own.

"I haven't been disappointed with what I've seen yet. It's nice to have a dog back," Strand said.