The Koninklijke Nederlandse Politiehond Vereniging (KNPV) is a dog sport originating in Holland that uses a number of exercises in an attempt to mimic situations encountered by police k9 units. One such exercise is centered around a search for small articles.
The KNPV small articles search takes place in a square section of grassy field. Three small objects, such as a key, a ring, a bullet casing, or a coin, are placed on the field. The dog then has 10 minutes to search the field and retrieve the objects. The handler is permitted to give basic commands instructing the dog to search, stay or release the retrieved object. A retrieval time of under 3 minutes is required to obtain a perfect score, while the dog is also graded on general obedience, the manner in which it searches the field, and how it handles the objects during the retrieval stage.
The intent of this exercise is to train the dog to act in a manner that mimics a police search for evidence. Unfortunately, the way this exercise is performed by the KNPV presents a number of problems when compared against what would be required of a search conducted by actual police forces. One of the biggest problems is that the dog is trained to mouth the object, pick it up and bring it back to the handler. In a real police search, investigators wear latex gloves to avoid disturbing the evidence any more than absolutely necessary. To have the dog mouth a piece of evidence might completely ruin it. The correct action for the dog to take would be to indicate passively by sitting next to the found article. Secondly, because KNPV is a sport, the exercises are performed with specific regulations concerning the search area. During a search, an officer can almost never rely on evidence being simply dropped in a perfectly square patch of grassy field.
The most important thing to remember is that KNPV, like all other dog sports, is just a sport. Police dogs, protection dogs and guard dogs alike need to be trained to handle real situations from the very beginning. Training for sport just isn’t good enough for work in the real world.