PORTSMOUTH – At 3 months old, he sometimes steps on his floppy ears.
He hasn’t mastered potty training and is still learning to walk on a leash.
Meet Duke: the newest member of the Portsmouth Police Department.
Duke is the department’s only bloodhound in recent memory and joins a K-9 Unit of six officers and six other dogs. While the unit’s Malinois and German Shepherds have specialized training in either explosives or narcotics detection, Duke will be used for search and rescue.
Sgt. Brian Ingram gave this example: When someone with a medical condition or dementia wanders off or goes missing, the department will call on Duke to track their scent.
“That’s our main goal, to get that person home safe,” said Ingram, who leads the K-9 Unit.
Duke was donated to the department by a breeder. When Officer Veré Schultz, his handler, picked him out, the other pups were playing and gnawing on sticks.
“He was nose to the ground,” Schultz said, “like he was looking for something.”
Duke’s nose, ears and wrinkles are perfect for the job. A bloodhound’s nose has several hundred million olfactory cells — 40 to 50 times more than humans have — which it uses to pick up a “scent picture,” Schultz said. The dog’s ears help sweep up a scent, and the wrinkles keep that odor near the nose, he explained.
Bloodhounds can trail the scent of a particular individual, even when that trail is days old, he said.
Duke will start his training sometime after the new year, and residents could see him out working his beat by summertime. Training takes about four months, but, Ingram said, they’ll start slow and aren’t going to rush it. Obedience is the foundation of police K-9 training, he said.
“We’re just developing his natural abilities,” Ingram said.
Schultz and Duke will be certified as a team by the state. The two will work together, and at the end of the day, go home together, too.
Schultz said the puppy seems to be adjusting well to his new home. Schultz’s other police dog, an 8-year-old German Shepherd named Gunner, was very curious at first about the new dog, who likes to try to steal his toys.
Duke enjoys shredding rope toys and chewing on just about everything.
Ingram said Duke also will serve as an ambassador of sorts, appearing at some events and helping “bridge gaps” between police and the community, he said.
He’s doing some of that already. To name the dog, the department held a contest on Facebook, encouraging people to pick their favorite from a list of seven.
They got more than 1,500 responses.
“Yep, he’s a Duke for sure,” one person wrote.
“Welcome aboard,” wrote another.
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