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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill police gain new Hungarian ‘green’ dog

Photo: Chapel Hill police gain new Hungarian ‘grain’ dog (Jamie Emmerman)
Officer Stephen Shaw and his dog Jax

Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly described police dogs that have not had previous training. They are called ‘green’ dogs. The story has been changed. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

The newest member of the Chapel Hill Police Department flew more than 4,000 miles to join the force.

He also has four legs.

Jax, a German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix, graduated from training on May 27 and has been working with his handler Officer Stephen Shaw every day since he arrived from Hungary.

Jax is what the police department calls a “green” dog, meaning he was completely untrained upon his arrival.

Shaw said he speaks in Hungarian when he works with Jax to make him feel comfortable in his new surroundings. The language difference also ensures that not just anyone can command the dog.

“What we started off with and spent about three to four weeks working on was simple obedience,” Shaw said. “Once the dog has a good grasp on the simpler stuff, we move on to the drug work.”

Jax and the three other dogs working for the department detect narcotics like marijuana, cocaine, meth and heroin.

“Our dogs’ job description ranges from drug sniffing to narcotics scans to missing persons searches, and a wide variety of other police aiding,” said Capt. Cornell Lamb of the Carrboro Police Department.

Mike Bullock, owner of Bullock’s Canine Service in Greenville, said most American police dogs are German Shepherds and come from other countries because they are bred to work.

“German Shepherds’ intelligence, temperament and willingness to work makes them perfect for police work,” he said.

To train the dogs, officers introduce them to different odors and give them toys when they pick up on the scent.

“There are a lot of myths that we feed the dogs drugs, but that isn’t true at all,” Shaw said. “The dogs believe that when they detect the odor, it is play time.”

The average working life span for a police dog is about eight to 10 years, and Shaw said the dogs stay with the same handler throughout their career, unless he or she stops working.

Shaw said working closely with a dog for such a long period of time forges a strong bond between an officer and his or her dog.

“Every morning, first thing, we go outside and I just spend some time with Jax, rubbing him, playing a little bit and making him feel good,” he said.

Once at work, Jax and Shaw practice obedience training and wait for canine calls to come in. Since Jax is new, Shaw said he hasn’t seen much action yet.

“When we go home Jax is just like any other dog,” Shaw said. “He’s a pet. I feed him dinner, put him in his kennel, and then we do it all again the next day.”

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