Delaware police officer David Sturman and police service dog Argo won two gold medals and a bronze at this year's Canadian American Police Fire Games, held in Dublin.

Delaware police officer David Sturman and police service dog Argo won two gold medals and a bronze at this year's Canadian American Police Fire Games, held in Dublin.

"This is the first competition we've been in," Sturman said.

Argo, a 4-year-old German shepherd from the Czech Republic, is the first canine the city has had in several years, Sturman said. Delaware County has three service dogs. Some townships have them, and several jurisdictions in Franklin County also use dogs.

"Ohio State University has two dogs they use to check for explosives during football games or things like that," Sturman said. "I like to think in Delaware we don't have a large need for that."

Dogs are trained to either scratch or sit when they have found the scent. Argo is trained to sit.

"Dogs are natural scratchers," Sturman said. "When you teach a dog to sit, it's going against nature."

Sitting is preferred, Sturman said, because scratching can cause damage.

Argo and Sturman won gold medal recognition in narcotics and handler protection, and a bronze in obedience. Argo was the only dog in the competition that had no false positives for drugs.

"We train twice a month, and we train heavily on not indicating where there is no odor of drugs," Sturman said. "Say there are 10 boxes. We might put a distractor under one box, a cheeseburger or a toy, and drugs under one box and nothing in a couple of boxes. The only one he is allowed to indicate on is the odor of the drugs."

Sturman trains with a group called Storm Dogs, operated by retired Franklin County Sheriff canine handler Mike Pennington.

Dogs are rewarded with verbal and physical praise, and toys, not food.

"We don't use food to reward for odor indication," Sturman said. "It's either a toy or some sort of verbal or physical praise, something the dog is looking for to say, hey, you did a good job."

Dogs also are used to recover bodies and other special purposes.

Dogs can "indicate on incendiary devices, things that could start fires," Sturman said. "There are agencies out there that use dogs for that purpose."

Sturman said Argo has been active for about three years, and can be expected to work for eight to 10 years, after which he is likely to retire to the Sturman household.

"It all depends on health," Sturman said. "I've trained with dogs that have been on the street for 10 years, other dogs for eight years. It's also possible he could be downgraded so he does only narcotics and not the aggression work, the utility work. I have the option to buy him for $1, and I'd certainly exercise that.

"It's like any dog you'd have for 10 years and then you have to give him to another family. I probably spend more time with him than I do my family. He's with me at work and at home."

Sturman said the emotional attachment is just as strong for a police officer as for a pet.

"I've got the best job in the world," Sturman said. "I've got a dog for a partner. What more could you ask for?"