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The Journey of Building Relationships with Dual-Purpose K9 with K9 Trainer Tabitha

Today, Robin and Crystal sit down with Police K9 Officer Tabitha. For over 15 years, she has worked for a large police department in Missouri, and has been a K9 handler for the last eight of those years. Aside from her work as a unit trainer, Tabitha is also a trainer for the American Mantrailing, Police & Work Dog Association (AMPWDA).

Tabitha does a deep dive into the unique challenges of her role, all while reminding handlers of every stripe that the entire trainer-dog dynamic rests on: the bedrock of engagement and relationship development. Engagement covers the outward behaviors displayed when a handler and their dog interact, whereas one’s relationship with their dog is an internal bond strengthened by trust.

She goes on to speak on her various experiences training and working with her dogs Bodý (now retired) and Admiral.

Asked why nothing gives her more joy and purpose than actually being on the field with Admiral, Tabitha replies, “I like training dogs and learning and seeing what they do and learning from different handlers, but there’s just something about being at the other end of that leash.”

Key Topics:

  • How Tabitha became involved in the K9 world (1:21)

  • Getting into the K9 unit (5:19)

  • The difference between engagement and relationship (13:35)

  • The bond between human and dog (18:36)

  • How Tabitha was assigned her two dogs (28:24)

  • Training challenges that Tabitha did not expect (31:01)

  • A typical day for Tabitha and Admiral (36:27)

  • What exactly a police dog is trained to sniff for (45:24)

  • Why Tabitha loves being in the field even more than teaching (51:30)

  • The most important personality trait for those who want to train K9 dogs (52:32)

  • What it takes to be a K9 handler (56:06)

  • Tabitha’s closing thoughts (59:34)


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