Toys & Training

Fort Collins police K9 Gunnar skilled to maintain summer season occasions protected

When you go to a Fort Collins music pageant this summer season, you may see Fort Collins Police Companies K9 Gunnar weaving by means of the gang together with his twitching nostril pointed on the sky.

Gunnar — a 6-year-old black lab combine — isn’t in search of a pet from attendees or listening to the music or cheering followers. He and his nostril are laser-focused on one factor: sniffing out explosives. 

Typical explosive-detecting K9s are skilled to smell out stationary explosives, like a bomb left in a bag inside a venue. However Gunnar and his handler, Officer Phil Selgren, are sometimes weaving by means of the gang so Gunnar can sniff the vapor coming off every particular person within the crowd, looking for the scent of explosives. 

Fort Collins police obtained Gunnar in 2018 from the Vapor Detection Public Security Canine Program, a patented coaching program that teaches canine to detect hint odors of body-worn or carried explosives and firearms. 

“Gunnar actually walks round and simply holds his head up,” Selgren mentioned. “He’s simply strolling alongside and in search of that odor to be current wherever.” 

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Gunnar and Selgren will stroll behind teams of individuals at sporting occasions or festivals so Gunnar can sniff the vapor coming off of individuals. When Gunnar finds the odor of some type of explosive — whether or not it is coming from a stationary object or an individual within the crowd of dozens of different folks — Selgren mentioned Gunner pulls him towards it. 

“He’ll principally work it till he can get to the particular person,” Selgren mentioned. “If the particular person continues to maneuver, he continues to observe them. In the event that they cease, he stops.”

They will sometimes stroll about 10 miles a day whereas working 8- to-10-hour days at occasions, Selgren mentioned.

Fort Collins Police Officer Phillip Selgren works with Gunner during Taste of Fort Collins in downtown Fort Collins on June 11.

When there was a gap on the K9 workforce in 2018, Selgren mentioned just lately retired Sgt. Sean Giddings researched the Vapor Wake program as a option to bridge a spot he noticed in occasion safety. 

“The development is not to go disguise a bomb upfront after which depart anymore,” Selgren mentioned, however for an attacker to hold within the explosive or gun themselves. 

Gunnar’s means to seek for the odor of explosives on the transfer bridges that hole, Selgren mentioned. 

“It doesn’t matter to him that there’s a factor or an individual or a car or something to go looking, he’s simply in search of the odor,” he mentioned.

Fort Collins Police Companies has seven K9 officers with the current retirement of Giddings and his K9 companion, Set off. Apart from Gunnar, the remainder of the K9 workforce is skilled for dual-purpose patrol, which implies they can assist apprehend suspects and seek for unlawful medication. 

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Patrol canine are skilled to observe their handlers’ instructions, however Gunnar is skilled to focus solely on odor, Selgren mentioned. Which means if Gunnar smells an odor he is skilled on, he’ll begin dragging Selgren by means of the gang even when there’s resistance on the leash, Selgren mentioned. 

Gunnar’s coaching is so targeted that he is additionally not in a position to be taught many obedience instructions, Selgren mentioned. Gunnar is aware of “sit,” “keep” and “search,” he mentioned, which made it difficult when he first introduced Gunnar residence. However over time — and as Gunnar started to belief Selgren and his spouse extra — Gunnar has turn out to be extra laid again at residence.

However at work, Gunnar wears a vest that claims “don’t pet me” and has even dodged pets from folks, Selgren mentioned. Vapor Wake canine are skilled to not search out consideration from folks as a result of they work occasions and want to remain targeted on looking for explosives, not pets from attendees, he mentioned. 

“He simply has zero need to be pet as a result of he needs to work,” Selgren mentioned. 

Volunteer Nancy Roberts provides a reward for Gunnar as she works with members of the Fort Collins Police Services K9 unit during a training exercise at Taste of Fort Collins in downtown Fort Collins, Colo., on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

Whereas giant neighborhood occasions had been canceled in the course of the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gunnar was recovering from surgical procedure on his left knee. It was lucky timing as a result of they did not should miss any occasions, Selgren mentioned, however it made him involved about gaps in occasion safety when, ultimately, Gunnar will not be capable to work. 

His knee harm was possible half genetic, half put on and tear, which implies it is potential his different knee might have the identical difficulty down the highway, Selgren mentioned. He is hopeful that the division will spend money on one other Vapor Wake canine within the subsequent few years to take Gunnar’s place.

“We love the neighborhood, and he loves the work, and we need to make it possible for safety hole is stuffed,” Selgren mentioned. “… You do not know what you are lacking till you’ve gotten it.”

And whereas Gunnar could also be too targeted whereas on the job to just accept pets, Selgren mentioned they respect pleasant waves from neighborhood members as they work. 

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Sady Swanson covers public security, felony justice, Larimer County authorities and extra all through Northern Colorado. You may ship your story concepts to her at or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Assist her work and that of different Coloradoan journalists by buying a digital subscription in the present day.

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