The Dublin police department is getting a new top dog.

After his training concludes this fall, 18-month-old Finn will assume canine unit duties.

Finn replaces Dublin's previous canine, Bairre, who retired at the end of 2015 at a little over 12 years old.

Finn is a Belgian Malinois breed with German shepherd mix. His training is expected to be completed Nov. 10, Dublin police Chief Heinz von Eckartsberg said.

After that, Finn and his canine handler, officer Justin Chappalear, will work on patrol.

"We're anxious to get him back here," von Eckartsberg said.

Finn is being trained in Pennsylvania, von Eckartsberg said. Chappalear is also undergoing training to be a handler and a certified trainer.

The canine unit's primary role in the police department is to help officers learn whether individuals have illegal drugs in their cars, von Eckartsberg said.

The dogs can also be used to search houses, rooms and people, although they are primarily used during traffic stops if an officer has reason to believe a person might be transporting drugs. Police dogs also are trained in tracking and can work with their human patrol partners to provide protection and search for lost individuals, von Eckartsberg said.

Chappalear said he is undergoing a 12-week course at Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania, which provides dogs for police departments throughout the country, as well as for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and the Navy's SEALs.

His initial training included working with the kennel's 22 dogs to teach them specialized tasks, Chappalear said.

"Most of them know sit, stay, heel -- they don't know how to smell certain odors," he said.

The job has had Chappalear on his feet. He said he's been logging about 9 miles of running per day.

Now, Chappalear will switch roles as other trainers arrive at the kennel and he will begin to work exclusively with Finn for the last six weeks of the training program.

Once he is finished with training and returns to Dublin, Chappalear will keep Finn at his home, he said. The canine unit is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Chappalear will be the first one contacted for critical incidents such as burglaries or robberies.

Chappalear, who has worked with the Dublin Division of Police for about 6 1/2 years, said he was chosen to be Dublin's canine handler after an application process.

Working alongside trained dogs is something with which Chappalear is familiar.

While serving in the U.S. military in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012, Chappalear volunteered in the kennels, which housed trained dogs that could sniff for improvised explosive devices, also called IEDs.

His volunteer efforts at the kennel, he said, stemmed from a long-held goal to be a canine officer.

"I wanted to do this since I was a little kid, to be honest," Chappalear said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah