“The Boxer has a long history of service to mankind as a police dog, war dog and service dog. In its homeland, the Boxer was one of the original breeds accepted for police work. Additionally, the Boxer’s service in Germany during World War I and World War II was virtually unparalleled. Although traditionally not as popular as other breeds for working purposes, hundreds of Boxers served during the war years. They were not only guard and patrol dogs, but also messenger dogs, a job that required negotiating mud-slickened, shell-shocked ground during heavy fire to carry messages between troops. The Boxer also transported communications wires, wearing a spool of wire that unwound as the dog ran between limits on the battlefield.
BADGE OF HONOR
The heyday of Boxers as a police dog in Germany may have passed decades ago, but in one area of the United States, the Boxer is making its mark as both a narcotics dog extraordinaire and a patrol dog. The credit for this regional resurgence in the Boxer’s police dog working abilities goes in large part to Cathy Hubert Markos and her husband, George, owners of Boxers von Bachbett Kennel in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and vice-president and president of the working Boxer club, the United States Boxer Association (USA-BOX).
Also using Boxers as their police K-9s, the husband and wife serve as special deputies for the Jackson County, Wisconsin, sheriff’s office. The Markoses and their Boxers are called out to search prisons and area schools for narcotics. In the schools, the dog-and-handler teams search primarily lockers; in the prisons, the teams serve more as “deterrents,” says Cathy.George works with Ivo vom Hafen, BH, SchHIII, IPm, FH2, ZTP, who has received his police certifications in narcotics, tracking and evidence search. Cathy currently works with Xenia von Sparta, BH, SchH III, IP02, FH 2, WH, VCD 1, CD X, TD, NA, NAJ, AC, AJC, TR 1, O-VCCX, who, with 22 titles to her name, received the American Boxer Club’s Top Performance Dog award in 2001 and is the first Boxer in the United States to be awarded the American Kennel Club’s Versatile Companion Dog title.
The couple has also trained another Boxer, Irco von Weiten Land-an impressive working male who is perhaps the first Boxer to be certified by the Midwest Canine Alternative (MCA, a certifying organization for police dogs) as a street patrol dog. Irco received this certification in May 2002 at the unheard-of age of 21 months old.
To receive this special certification, Irco was required to track a suspect in a simulated test and signal (indicate that he found) spent shotgun shells along the way. He also had to perform several additional apprehensions of “bad guys” in a variety of settings, including finding a suspect who was hiding in a tree, and apprehending a man who was firing a gun (using blanks, of course). In addition to simulated police work, Irco completed an obedience routine, successfully navigated an agility course and performed an evidence search.
The Markoses have trained and sole’ Boxers to various police departments t, use as narcotics dogs as well. One of their most famous dogs who served as police K-9 is Dolly von den Almeaur. BH, AD, ZTP. “Dolly” and her handler, Detective Marion Byerson of the LaCrosse Police Department, logged an impressive record of narcotics finds that led to many arrests.Following in Dolly’s pawprints are several more of the Markos’ dogs, including two of Dolly’s daughters, Elke von Bachbett and Babsey von Kluven, BH. A third female, Diva von Bachbett, BH, SchH I, was on full-time duty until recently as a narcotics and tracking dog for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. At presstime, Diva was on maternity leave.
The most difficult part in certifying Boxers for police work has not been in the training, concedes Cathy. Rather, it has been in gaining respect and acceptance from other dog handlers. “Most departments are diehards. They’re still interested in German Shepherds, and they’re slow to change,” says Cathy, who also trains German Shepherd Dogs for police work. “You’ll hear things like ‘the Boxer can’t track because its nose is too short,”’ says Cathy.Granted, there are some disadvantages to working with the Boxer.
Boxers are a brachycephalic breed, so hot, humid weather can make life difficult or even a health hazard to a hard-working dog. Brachy- cephalic breeds have short, wide heads and short faces; breathing problems often afflict dogs with this skull shape. “Their tolerance of heat is not great,” admits Cathy, noting that this is probably the breed’s biggest drawback as a working dog.Some German police dog trainers have criticized the Boxer, stating it takes longer to train. The common saying is, “In the time it takes to train one Boxer, you could have trained two German Shepherds.” However, the same trainers agree that a well-trained Boxer is a very, very good dog to work with.The Boxer’s strengths far outweigh its few drawbacks, agrees Cathy. “The major advantage to Boxers is that they are so stable and social. You never really have to be concerned [with aggression] in crowded conditions. But in the right situation, they can be so defensive.”The Boxer is also a much better driving companion than many GSDs and Belgian Malinois, says Cathy. “When in the squad car, the Boxer is calm and quiet.
A lot of Shepherds and Malinois are very vocal dogs. They’re constantly whining and barking,” which can be an irritant to the dog handler, she says.Care of the Boxer is a bit simpler, too, than that of the longer-coated breeds commonly used in police work. “The Boxer is a wash-and-wear kind of dog,” she explains, extolling the virtues of the breed’s short, smooth coat.As for raw talent, the imported German Boxers that the Markoses work with and those that they have in turn bred are naturals when it comes to scent work. In addition, their hunting drive is unparalleled: The search itself is often the greatest reward for these dogs. Successful Boxers are “so darn nosey,” laughs Cathy. “They have to always be searching around. They’re the ones that if you’ve thrown a ball in the park, they’ve just got to keep looking until they’ve found that ball.” And, unfortunately for the “bad guys,” the Markos’ Boxers also possess this focus when searching for narcotics or the person who sells them.