The San Gabriel Police Department K-9 Unit has been in place since 2017.
Currently consisting of 2 teams of dedicated officers and K9’s that protect and serve the City of San Gabriel in California. One of their famous k9’s is of course, K-9 Bentley, a 4 year old Belgian Malinois from Slovakia that responds to commands in Czech. He is also one of the youngest K-9’s to go through training as a certified apprehension dog. Officer Paul Puente and Bentley have an incredible bond and spend many hours together playing and training everyday. Bentley enjoys playing ball and is very social with everyone, but knows when it’s time to go to work. Puente and Bentley are trained in narcotics detection. His high play drive makes him perfect for his role as a San Gabriel Police K-9.
We teamed up with Officer Puente to discuss about training, tips and working with e-collars.
Q: What got you interested in being a dog trainer?
I’ve always appreciated what animals can do for people. I was fortunate to see a police dog in action prior to being a police officer and was completely amazed. After that incident, I knew I not only wanted to be a police officer one day, but it became a goal to be a handler.
Q: Why is training g important, regardless the size of your dog?
Because dogs need a purpose. Whether it’s a job or simply being obedient, dogs respond well to the whole reward based system. They love to please and mental stimulation helps create that bond through training.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your career?
The most rewarding part of my job is visiting elementary schools and performing K9 demonstrations for little kids. The way they respond to my four legged partner is indescribable. We strive to make a positive impact with kids.
Q: What do you think makes an ecollar a good training gear?
One word, communication. A trainer once said an ecollar is like tapping a friend on the shoulder during a loud concert to get their attention versus shouting for them. It is such an effective tool that I depend on it daily at work with my police dog. People have this misunderstanding that the ecollar is a “Shock Collar” designed to gain compliance through pain. That could not be further from the truth.
Q: How do you handle bigger dogs that are prone to aggressive behaviors?
In my like of work, I only train with large dogs. I don’t see any behavioral differences from small dogs compared to large dogs. Aggression can be present in any dog breed and It depends on its bloodline and exposure to different sights and sounds as a pup. Aggression usually comes from fear and lack of socialization, example of the “Fight or flight.”
Q: Which dog training techniques do you consider the most effective and why?
I typically use two types of Operant conditioning: positive reinforcement and negative punishment.
Positive reinforcement works great because it’s an immediate reward for the desired behavior. An example is verbally praising my dog when he does what I ask of him. Dogs do not work for free, so find out what your dog likes. It could be a verbal praise, treats or toys.
Negative punishment is a great way of training out unwanted behaviors. An example is ignoring your dogs unwanted behavior until the desired behavior is achieved. I use this a lot during narcotic detection training while reinforcing his alert.
Q: what are the most common mistakes you see when it comes to pet owners disciplining their dogs?
The most common would be correction vs punishment. An unattended dog urinating in the house while the owner is away results in the owner shoving the dog’s face in the urine a smacking it thinking the dog understands what is going on. That is punishment. Dogs do not associate things after the fact. Instead, correct the unwanted behavior in the moment.
Another big mistake is trying to train a dog when you are frustrated. Dog training should be fun. Believe it or not, the frustration runs down the leash so if you’re not having fun, the dog will feel it.
Q: Favorite quote?
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
Officer Paul Puente began his career with the San Gabriel Police Department in 2008. Shortly thereafter, he became an Explorer Advisor where he educated and mentored youth interested in law enforcement. In 2014, Puente became a Field Training Officer (FTO) and was responsible for training and supervising new police officers who graduated from the police academy. In 2016, Puente was assigned to the Investigations Division as a Detective, where he was responsible for investigating property crimes. During his assignment in the detective bureau, he assembled a multi-agency burglary suppression task force that consisted of several detectives from surrounding agencies. In 2017, Puente was selected to become the first K-9 handler in the department’s history. He and his K-9 partner, Bentley, completed their training together at Adlerhorst K-9 Academy, Class #225 and have been inseparable since.