Q&A With Working Dog Handler Mike Stone
By Liz Palika
The Dog Daily: Which one of your working dogs would you like to talk about?
Mike Stone: Marco is an eight-year-old Belgian Malinois who works for the St. Vincent de Paul centers. He was initially trained for patrol work and was later cross-trained for narcotics detection.
TDD: Tell us something about Marco's training. What was easy for him? What has been more difficult?
Mike: I have been working with Marco and St. Vincent de Paul for a couple of years. This dog has been absolutely easy to train in almost all facets of his work. It is amazing that Marco was cross trained for narcotics work after he was six years old; many dogs of that age are getting ready to retire, but Marco is taking on new challenges. In addition, one of St. Vincent's unique features is that they have multiple handlers per dog. Many patrol dogs have a difficult time adjusting to this, because each handler has his own style of dog handling and, of course, his own personality. Marco, however, has done well with this. One thing that was tough for Marco was to teach him to remain calm when searching the tight and small areas that he must search, such as lockers, dorm rooms, and elevators.
TDD: What does Marco do on a normal working day?
Mike: Marco always has something to do. On a normal day he will have a patrol shift with a handler and this will include property and building perimeter patrol. He will also have interior building patrol. He will have two obedience training sessions per day and one narcotics training session each day.
TDD: What else can you tell us about Marco's work?
Mike: Marco is now widely known at St. Vincent de Paul's for eliminating those people who are not following the substance abuse program. He has had several good finds and has increased the overall productivity of the canine program.
TDD: Is Marco also a pet and companion?
Mike: No, Marco is not a pet. He lives at the compound. Because of where he works and the chaotic nature of his work, he has been trained to be very protective of his surroundings. He is a very sociable dog; however, there would be too much liability if he were to be a pet. In addition, the potential for training problems would be increased.
TDD: Do you feel Marco is missing anything by living at the compound?
Mike: Marco has never been a pet and therefore can't miss what he never knew. But he also loves his work and has a great relationship with his handlers. Marco has a great life.