Photo by Nikki Velarde

Dogs, owners take over Salado park

by / 0 Comments / 86 View / July 3, 2015

By Nikki Velarde, The Belton Journal

The Salado Chamber of Commerce held their 4th Annual Dog Daze of Summer Festival for pet owners, their pets, and fellow animal lovers to come out and enjoy a doggone good kickoff to summer. This year’s event took place in Pace Park, along the beautiful Salado Creek on Saturday.

Furry friends and their owners enjoyed an array of animal-themed vendors, music from a live jazz band, food and treats, as well as several demonstrations and contests. Returning again this year was the Fort Hood K9 demo where guests watched these amazing working military dogs perform their “take-down” techniques, scent detection, and other skills that showcase their strength, agility, and command.

The military police dogs are all trained at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and then they are stationed all over the U.S. “It’s not just the army, it’s also for the Marines, Air Force, Navy, even some police agencies get their dogs from there,” explained Private First Class (PFC) Zamudio. “All dogs for the Department of Defense are trained there.”

The Military Police K9 Unit was on hand to demonstrate the dog’s training as well as answer questions. “They are trained from puppies and their toy-drive is tested as well as how their relationship with people is,” explained PFC Zamudio. “If the dog doesn’t have that drive to get the toy, they won’t do any of the tasks.”

“With detection, they don’t know what it is that they’re finding, all they know is that as soon as they find it they are going to get rewarded and they think that they’re finding their toy because that’s what they get paid with,” said PFC Zamudio. “You have to make training fun for the dog or else they’re not going to want to do it.”

Some of the gear they take with them include toys, grooming tools, a collapsible bowl, a retractable leash, a short line, and a choke collar. “When we are deployed, instead of having to hold the dog on a leash, the short line lets us have our hands free to hold a weapon while still maintaining control of the dog”, said PFC Zamudio. It is equipped with a quick release for whenever the dog needs to be released.

The retractable leash can be used on deployment when dogs are looking for explosives, “that way you can maintain a distance,” explained PFC Zamudio. “The dog is trained to not get on top of the explosive or touch it when they detect it. We don’t want that because it could activate something and endanger anyone nearby, but to be safe we try to maintain a distance from the dog when they are detecting explosives. There is always that risk factor.”

The choke collar is used most often “when we are around people because these dogs are also trained to attack,” said PFC Zamudio. “However the dog does not have to have an aggressive temperament to be trained to attack, they just have to have a drive towards the equipment, what we want to do is train them to go with our commands, not just on their own. What we don’t want is any of our dogs to just go and bite someone. There are dogs that are naturally a little more aggressive and their handlers try to keep them more away from people.”

Although PFC Zamudio’s dog is nice and friendly, it is always important to ask the owner for permission before you come up and pet the animal. “We are also police and I try to maintain that bubble away from people,” PFC Zamudio explains. “You can come to my dog when I tell you to and it’s safe. Like with any other dogs, it’s always good to ask if you can come up and pet them. Especially with these dogs since they are trained to attack”.

In addition to the Military Police dog demonstrations, there were other pet-themes vendors on site for demonstrations and information to include Salado Veterinary Hospital, Cocker Spaniel Rescue of Austin and San Antonio, Oo la la Gifts, Operation K9, The Dog Spot, and Nutree Fitness LLC.

Heather Nusbaum of Nutree Fitness LLC gave a presentation and demonstration on the benefits of getting fit with your dog. It is not only healthy for you but it is also healthy for your dog as it increases the bond between you and your fur baby.

All in all, it was a great day spent with man’s best friend and a fantastic and fun way to kick off the summer and hot weather to come.