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Meet New Glasgow’s four-legged lawman

Const. Don Wadden and his trusty partner Bandit train hard to fight street crime every day with the New Glasgow Regional Police.
Const. Don Wadden and his trusty partner Bandit train hard to fight street crime every day with the New Glasgow Regional Police. - Fram Dinshaw

NEW GLASGOW

Bandit is slightly cuter and furrier than your average lawman.

But local criminals had better watch their backs – as German shepherds can sniff out a rat from a thousand yards.

“He’s a high-drive dog,” said Bandit’s handler, Const. Don Wadden, by way of introduction.

The News met Bandit and Wadden outside New Glasgow Regional Police’s office, taking a drive across town in a dark blue police truck with its own custom-built dog cage.

An excited Bandit barked, whined and wagged his tail in the back of the truck as Wadden outlined how police K-9 units train dogs.

A typical day for Bandit includes lots of running around and fetching or grappling with throw toys, as well as playful wrestling with Wadden.

For Bandit, it feels like one big game, but Wadden is actually training his dog to respond to hand signals and ‘out’ on command as he simulates an arrest.

And a suspect had better come quietly when K-9 officers show up at a crime scene: anyone who attacks Wadden will face the sharp-toothed wrath of Bandit, who is intensely loyal to his master.

Such K-9 units can help police speed up area or building searches for suspects in a fraction of the time and cost it would take for human officers.

“With the K-9 section it really alleviates a lot of extra work,” said Wadden.

Bandit is also rigorously trained to track human scents and ignore animal smells that dogs typically pick up.

Bandit is trained using articles such as bullet casings and clothing left at a crime scene or discarded by suspects fleeing on foot.

At a local ball park, Wadden sprinkled a few bullet casings for Bandit to sniff out, which he did within minutes, indicating his find by lying down next to it.

But it is still important for the public to let police do their job, said Wadden.

For example, a thief who breaks into a home can be tracked down fairly easily by police, but if a homeowner chases the suspect out, dogs can be confused by two or more human scents.

Another constraint is weather conditions. Human scent can evaporate in under an hour depending on humidity or other climate factors.

“The dog is trained to sniff out the scent of the person that took off specific to where they were last seen,” said Wadden.

He said that Bandit, now roughly six years old and nearing retirement age, was purchased from a dog breeder in the Czech Republic.

Before police dogs like Bandit begin training with a handler, the pair spend two weeks just bonding and developing a friendship.

Bandit lives at home with Wadden and his family and will likely stay on as a pet after he retires.

Wadden is not Bandit’s first handler, but together the pair arrested a stabbing suspect in January.

“It’s a big bond that develops,” said Wadden.

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