Security dogs in demand in Oklahoma as crime rates rise

A tough economy means a strong job market for immigrants - at least in the case of German shepherds, Angel Soriano said.

"Where other industries seem to be hurting, certainly the security industry does not," said Soriano, operator of K9 University in Oklahoma City.

"If anything, people are spending more money to protect themselves as they perceive the crime rate going up and they feel less secure, and that's where dogs come into the picture. "

Soriano, who has been training dogs for more than 20 years, usually has 12-15 canine students at his school, with a high turnover rate.

He offers a wide range of training lines, including basic companion obedience, sports agility and medical seizure detection.

But demand for business security dogs and explosives and drug detection dogs is obviously on the rise, he and others said. Although law enforcement agencies at all levels are employing more canine partners, businesses are more often conducting their own private security sweeps for illegal materials.

"And the part of the industry for personal protection dogs, which are intended to be police dogs for home use, has been growing radically in the last three to four years," Soriano said.

"People are feeling uncertain, and any time the news reports on a home invasion situation, I get a spike in my customer needs. "

Kathy Precht, who operates Tulsa Dog Training Academy with her husband, Fred, said she has also noticed more of her clients asking about personal security training.

Most of Precht's work is in clients' homes, ensuring that the entire family ends up using the same commands their companion dog has learned. "Otherwise it's like they're all speaking a different language and the dog won't understand what they're expecting," she said.

 "Several times a week someone will ask if we have guard dogs to sell or train. And these are not necessarily business owners; a lot of them are homeowners," she said. "They don't understand you can't train a 10-week-old puppy to be a guard dog. "

Soriano said most people approach canine security training in the wrong direction, picking a dog themselves and then seeking a professional trainer.

"I usually have bad news for people who do that. ... You don't make an athlete; the genetics have to be right," he said. "Lucy may be a good companion dog for the family. But not every dog is cut out for security work. "

Soriano prefers working with German shepherds, which have traits specific to the breed that he knows how to best accentuate. He actually imports dogs from Germany, going on scouting trips every couple of years for good breeding lines. Precht, who has more than 40 years of experience in the business, said she likes to work with Belgian malinois, which resembles a compact German shepherd.

Precht said that in a personal security situation, she would much rather sic a dog on an assailant than point a gun at him.

Soriano agreed: "Bullets go off and they won't stop until they hit something. You can call off a dog. "