Teaching new dogs old tricks

GLENDALE — Officials say they will take a wait-and-see approach before accepting two new pups from South Korea into Glendale's K-9 program.

The Jindo pups would represent a major change from the German shepherds that have been staples of police K-9 programs. South Korea earlier this year earmarked two of the pups each for the Los Angeles and Glendale police departments.

L.A. has already received theirs, but Glendale has been somewhat reluctant to take the pups because they're not fully developed, said Chang Lee, a planning commissioner who spearheaded the sister-city relationships with Korea and facilitated the Jindo exchange.

Since Glendale police outsource their training to a dog handler in Ventura, Lee said the immediate push to import the pups lost some steam.

Glendale police's K-9 unit is wholly supported by donations, and has recently amped up fundraising efforts to replace the four canines slated to retire in two or three years.

The donation from South Korea would save money, but the Glendale Police Foundation, which fundraises for the Glendale K-9 unit, would likely have to pay for their training, said the group's president, John Gantus.

Training usually runs up to $12,000 for each pup, according to the Police Department.

Before taking the dogs, Glendale police will evaluate how well they train with the Los Angeles K-9 squad, Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

The roughly 2-month-old pups have begun training with LAPD handlers to determine their strengths and where they would best fit in, Lt. Robert Arcos said.

The donation comes at a time when his department and the city of Los Angeles have struggled to balance their depleted funding sources, Arcos said.

"It's huge for us because we can't afford it," he said. "We have been really fortunate."

While local officials evaluate the implications of the donation, Lee said names have already been chosen for the pups earmarked for Glendale — Hanmi, which means "U.S.-Korea," and Jin Kor, which stands for "Jindo from Korea."

The Jindo is a source of national pride for South Koreans, Lee said, adding that the nation has taken measures to protect the dog's genetics. The dogs have been kept on Jindo Island to ensure their lineage was not corrupted, he said.

"For many years, the Jindo has been a kept secret in Korea," Lee said.

Representatives of South Korea's Jindo Dog Promotion and Innovation Agency approached Lee earlier this year to help them introduce the dogs to the United States, he said.

Offering the pups to U.S. law enforcement agencies was the best way to go, he added.

Training the new pups will take expertise and smarts, said Fran Oh, the only Korean Jindo breeder in the U.S. cited in the American Kennel Club, a national dog registry group.

"They are extremely easy to train, but at the same time, the trainer must be smarter than the dog," she said.

The Jindo's strong sense of smell and memory capabilities could best serve as a search-and-rescue dog for police agencies, officials said.

Once they realized the dog's capabilities, the South Korea's Jindo agency began working with Lee to donate the four pups to the Los Angeles and Glendale police departments.

Representatives met with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck earlier this year to get a final approval of the donation, Lee said.

Glendale police also gave the South Korean agency a letter of interest for the new pups, he said.

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