FDPD's canine wins honor at 2020 trials
LARCHWOOD — Canine cop Voodoo and handler Sgt. Paul Samuelson of the Fort Dodge Police Department won the Top Dog honor at the 2020 Narcotics Detector Dog Trials hosted by the U.S. Police Canine Association on Tuesday.
The annual trial, hosted this year by the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, featured 57 dogs competing from around Iowa on narcotics detection skills, both in rooms and in cars.
With a perfect score, Samuelson and Voodoo beat out the competition, including K9s from the Des Moines Police Department and Woodbury County, both in detection skill and speed.
“The tie breaker is how fast you run them, and we were fastest,” said Samuelson, who has been a police canine handler since 1999. “I let Voodoo do all the work.”
But the win is a result of a lot of training, he said, which is honed for at least six to seven hours every week so that the 4-year-old Belgian Malinois is always “ready to go” when duty calls. By law, they are only required to train for four hours per week.
“It takes a lot to go out there and be sharp in your skills,” Samuelson said. “You have to maintain efficiency with the dog, constantly working on different scenarios based on trends and what we see in the streets.”
The pair train for drug searches at a wide variety of locations and businesses, including the Humboldt Fire Department, Daniel’s Tire Co., Gronbach Construction in Dakota City, Jergen’s Body & Alignment in Humboldt and MidIowa Towing.
Many exercises involve distractions such as people yelling on the sidelines while Voodoo works to hone his focus on stressful scenes. Others involve putting drugs in high or unusual places.
The handler said Voodoo can easily find a single gram of marijuana hidden on a football field.
Though Samuelson has received numerous handling awards, he said this is his first Top Dog win.
“It’s not so much for me, it’s my dog that’s done a great job,” Samuelson said. “It’s a high honor for my dog.”