News / Vancouver

Vancouver police dog hangs on to partner for dear life

K-9 Niko was snapped to his handler's leg while rappelling down the side of a building.

Vancouver Police Department K-9 Officer Niko clings to his handler's leg as they rappel down a building as part of a training exercise.


Vancouver Police Department K-9 Officer Niko clings to his handler's leg as they rappel down a building as part of a training exercise.

Training to be a cop isn’t for the faint of heart, but for a Vancouver police dog, it proved to be particularly ruff.

The Vancouver Police Department posted a photo on social media showing police service dog Niko in a harness while clinging to his human partner's leg while the pair rappel down the side of a building. The image, which was shared on Oct. 22, is making international headlines this week and barking up a storm on social media.

“Hey dad... This rappelling? Yuh, I'm not a fan,” the photo caption reads.

Const. Sandra Glendinning, spokeswoman for Vancouver police, said the image was snapped while the five-year-old German Shepherd was attempting his first rappel from a five-storey building— his highest elevation yet— with his handler.

“When they came over the ledge and they started going down, he was fine for the first little bit,” she told Metro. “Then Const. Dan Ames, who is the handler in the picture, said he could feel the dog wrapping his front legs around his leg about two thirds of the way up, and the dog just kind of hung on.”

After the photo was posted online, Glendinning said she was not prepared to see it fetch such a strong response, setting a record as one of VPD’s most popular images on social media.

“It’s a great image that shows the bond between a handler and a dog,” she said. “In this photo, you’ve got police service dog Niko who is clearly depending on his partner 100 per cent, and there’s a level of trust there.”  

Although Niko appears frightened while he clings to his partner, Glendinning said the dog actually took to rappelling very quickly. By wrapping his legs around his handler, she said the dog was able to stabilize himself.

Once they both reached the ground, she said the pair played a game of tug of war. It wasn’t long before the pooch, who has served as a police dog for three years, wanted to rappel down the building again, she said.

“It’s all positive reinforcement,” she said. “When they do something that we want them to do, we praise them and play tug of war or fetch … so that they know that they’re doing something that they’re supposed to.”

She said it’s important for police service dogs to learn how to rappel, as they need to be prepared for any situation that could arise, including rappelling out of a helicopter.

“We originally start training the dog just wearing the harness,” she said. “Then it’s a really slow introduction to the rappel. It starts a few feet off the ground and they gradually work up higher from there.”

This isn't the first time Niko has been the pick of the litter.

The fetching pup also appeared as “Mister June” in VPD's 2016 police dog calendar, which raises funds for the BC Cancer Foundation and BC Children's Hospital Foundation.

Now somebody throw that dog a bone.

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