Striker, Rocky and Marco have been sharpening their teeth and skills for weeks as they prepare to meet about 60 other competitors to see who’s the top dog.
Teams from throughout the Southwest will meet next month in Scottsdale for the third annual Desert Dog Regional Police K-9 Trials.
Scottsdale’s K-9 unit is the host and primed to put the cuffs on the competition.
"I can tell you that every team has been training for weeks," said Sgt. J.R. Parrow. "Practice makes perfect and the competition can get fierce."
Parrow, 41, has 20 years with the Scottsdale Police Department, 14 with the K-9 unit. He has been a judge at two previous police dog competitions.
Dogs and handlers will be under pressure, Parrow said. Distractions and noise from the crowd and other activity on the field can make the dogs nervous.
"Street work and trials are as different as night and day," Parrow said.
Sgt. David Alverado will be competing for the first time. He has been a member of the Scottsdale department for four years and joined the K-9 unit in May.
"I’m a little nervous," Alverado said. "Rocky and I will be competing in all the events. His specialty is narcotics detection."
Last year’s winner in Overall Top Dog was Tim Norton and his canine partner, Axle, from Phoenix.
Scottsdale took second place in Overall Top Agency, with two or more dogs in competition.
Owen Keefe, trainer for the Scottsdale K-9 unit, said there is a twofold reason to hold the event: Showcasehandlers’ skills and show the public how their tax dollars are being spent.
Most police dogs are purchased in Europe and cost about $7,500 before training for drug, bomb or building searches. A department will invest about $15,000 in a dog before it sees street duty, Keefe said.
Scottsdale does not contribute to the event. Private funds are raised jointly by the Scottsdale K-9 unit and the Phoenix and Mesa police departments.
"We do have about 50 volunteers — Police Explorers, judges and people from various other departments," Keefe said. "These folks need to be fed while they’re here and we could use help with that."
Police dog trials
What: Desert Dog Regional Police K-9 Trials
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 16-17
Where: Scottsdale Stadium, 7500 E. Osborn Road
Information: (602) 509-2498