Bob Dougherty, who served for three decades as a police K9 officer for Cheltenham Township, recently joined the Penn Vet Working Dog Center as a full-time law enforcement trainer to enhance the Center’s teaching resources for police dogs and their handlers.
Over the course of his three-decade-long career as a police K9 officer for Cheltenham Township, Bob Dougherty saw firsthand the benefits of having a well-trained police dog on the force.
“It’s more than having a dog in the back of your car,” he says. “Having a police dog is an asset to the whole department, the whole community.”
Now in his “retirement,” Dougherty is lending his expertise to the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Working Dog Center (WDC), coming onboard as a full-time law enforcement trainer to enhance the Center’s teaching resources for police dogs and their handlers.
Since it opened in 2012, the WDC, founded by executive director Cindy Otto, has sent 18 graduates to careers in law enforcement, from Socks, Penn’s very own explosives detection dog, to recent graduate Dylan, who joined the Cheltenham Police in October as a dual-purpose dog, trained in patrol and narcotics detection.
Dougherty has been an important part of that work. He began volunteering at the WDC in 2014 to assist Annemarie DeAngelo, the Center’s training director, who herself has more than 30 years of experience working with police dogs with the New Jersey State Police. Dougherty and DeAngelo quickly recognized qualities of strong police dogs in some of the WDC puppies, and began applying the Center’s principles of positive reinforcement to prepare them for careers in law enforcement.
“That is what separates us from a lot of other training facilities,” Dougherty says. “We are able to turn out some very, very good police dogs without using compulsion training techniques, which I believe not only have the potential to lead to physical injury for a dog, but also have potential to create behavioral problems and conflicts between a handler and a dog.”
In addition to training the puppies at the Center and collecting data on the most effective techniques, Dougherty will be leading regular training sessions for K9 units from around the region, helping organize the U.S. Police K9 Association’s National Scent Detect Trials, and teaching classes in detection and patrol skills.
“Being able to run classes here opens the door to more departments that may have never heard of the Center and our work,” Dougherty says. “It’s another way of spreading the gospel.”
Dougherty says he was thrilled for the opportunity to join the WDC staff, a community he compares to a family.
“It’s something I still smile about,” he says. “I believe in Cindy’s vision and her dream for the Center, and feel very lucky to be part of it. I hope it’s something that lasts a long time.”