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August 1, 2014

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Metro partners — one two-legged, one four-legged — ready for canine competition

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Jackie Valley

Metro Police Officer Sean Malia poses with his K-9 partner, Archie, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. Archie is competing in the department’s 23rd annual K-9 Trials on Sunday at the Orleans Arena.

Fur will fly this weekend inside the Orleans Arena as dozens of four-legged competitors vie for the “top dog” title.

Police dogs and their cop counterparts will put their job skills on show Sunday as part of the 23rd annual Metro Police K-9 Trials. Metro and the nonprofit Friends of the Las Vegas Police K9s are hosting the event, which is free to the public and begins at 8 a.m. Sunday.

For the agility portion of the competition, dogs will navigate a canine obstacle course, complete with tunnels and climbing barrels.

The dogs also will compete in what police call “bite work” — which is the practice of apprehending a suspect and obeying officers’ commands during a pursuit.

The K-9 Trials will bring about 60 teams from across the country to participate.

Ahead of the challenge, the Sun sat down with Metro K-9 Officer Sean Malia and his police dog, Archie, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, who are competing. Here, Malia discusses his and Archie’s roles with the department:

What got you interested in joining Metro’s K-9 unit?

The teamwork aspect of it: I really enjoy working with the other handlers and working with the dogs.

What does it take for a dog like Archie to become a certified police K-9?

A lot of brokers purchase them from overseas. They come over with a little bit of obedience work. Once they get over here, we begin 12 weeks of training. The training is completed by our trainers within Metro.

You see a huge progression with the dog at the end. (Training) goes all the way from small things, such as obedience, to teaching them how to hunt for bad guys. Some bite work is involved in that. It’s quite extensive.

What’s a typical workday like for you and Archie?

I start at 4 in the afternoon, and I finish at 2 in the morning. We start our day from the driveway at home. We go to the park to let him stretch out a bit. Then we look for any type of calls that may be canine-related. We spend a lot of time with SWAT. We’re lucky to work so close with them.

What was your most memorable moment as partners?

The guy had committed a robbery and had a gun. He had gone ahead and ran up to one of the hotels and hid in one of the parking garage areas. We found him hiding in one of the big trash compactors. He gave up and we were able to locate the gun.

It’s a proud moment when your dog works well and all that training pays off.

But every so often mistakes can happen, right?

We work hard. We train every day. On our 10-hour work shift that we work four days a week, we train every night to try to eliminate (mistakes). (Dogs are) like humans. They have their bad days. We just have to work through it, power through it and try to get better every day.

You and Archie live and work together, so you arguably spend more time with him than anyone else. Describe Archie’s personality.

He’s kind of a clown. He really enjoys people. He likes coming to work. He likes getting in the truck. I just turn the truck on and he starts howling and spinning in his kennel. He’s very excitable that way.

He likes kids. We do a lot of school demonstrations, and he really loves the attention. He truly is a social dog.

What’s Archie’s life like when you two are off duty?

We train on our off time, too. But during that time he gets to be a dog, too — go to the park, play a little ball, swim in the pool. He’s not a very good swimmer, but he does swim.

With all these muscle-building activities, how much food does Archie consume each day?

They eat one time a day, and that’s at the end of the shift. We’ll work a 10-hour day, and at the end of the night, he gets his 4 1/2 cups of high-performance dog food.

And, now, the most important question of all: What’s his favorite toy?

A Kong chew toy. That’s his reward for good obedience and working hard all day long.

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