Sometimes it's hard to know what's new in the world of K-9 gear. So to catch you up on the cool stuff that's out there, here's a look at some of the newest and most useful products available for your four-legged partner.

On-the-Job Protection

Keeping your K-9 protected is extremely important. Although wearing armor or other protective gear is not appropriate in every situation, it's necessary to have it on hand for those times when you need it. There's a lot to choose from, but here's a sampling.

The name "Doggles" may sound funny, but these serious goggles keep K-9s' eyes protected. You can think of them as armor for your dogs' eyes. Police dogs in Search and Rescue, Border Patrol, and department K-9 units wear the ILS model Doggles in size large. These goggles have flexible frames and deep lens cups that provide a secure fit. Although tinted lenses are available, clear lenses provide the clearest view for working dogs, especially when searching in dark areas such as warehouses and attics. As a bonus, the goggles provide UV protection and have an anti-fog coating to make sure your K-9's vision won't be obscured in any situation.

K-9 armor from Pinnacle Armor is made with the same materials used on human cops, but is designed to properly fit a dog-in every season. A multi-zip function allows one K-9 vest to fit dogs with full coats in the winter and adjust to fit more snugly when K-9s have slimmer coats in the summer months. An attached harness criss-crosses underneath the dog so he won't tip when rappelling. This armor, which offers full-frontal chest protection, is available in NIJ levels IIA, II, and IIIA, as well as in an armor-piercing variant.

The K-9 Operations Vest from Point Blank Body Armor provides full-coverage ballistic protection for chest, back, sides, and abdomen and is available in NIJ Levels IIA, II, and IIIA. This custom-sized vest accommodates a K-9 harness and its sewn-in heavy-duty metal rappel loop accommodates an ordinary leash. To provide handlers with several options, the vest's 500-denier Cordura outershell can be used alone as K-9 identification or identification can be easily removed from the vest. To keep your K-9 comfortable, a cooling system is available for this vest.

Second Chance Body Armor's K-9 Partner Armor is a two-piece unit made of PolyDuc designed to protect police dogs' most vulnerable areas. The ballistic panel is worn with a series of nylon buckled straps and elastic attachments for easy adjustment. This system also provides give so that the dog can move freely while the ballistic protection stays in place. The armor protects the animal's chest with double panel protection over the heart area on either side and provides over-the-back protection. Ballistic protection is available in NIJ Levels IIA, II, or IIIA. The carrier is made of pack cloth nylon that can be wiped clean after each wearing.

Getting Organized

Keeping track of everything your K-9 does while on the job and during training can be a hassle. It's a must, not just for the bean counters' records, but for liability reasons. Although it's a chore that will never be completely painless, software designed to document and organize your K-9's activities can ease the pain a bit.

Most companies that offer K-9 management software also supply prospective customers with demo CDs so you can decide which product works best for you and your department before you commit.

Code Blue Designs' Kanine II was created to document not just training, but all those other things you and your K-9 do on the job. It even allows for the entry of multiple training activities for each training record as well as single handler or multiple handler registration. It also keeps track of K-9 unit expense records and reports, K-9 medical records and reports, and use-of-force reports.

CyberCop's K9 Manager was made to take with you wherever you go. Available for both WindowsCE and Palm handheld computers, it's designed to capture your daily events, including deployments, compliance issues, vehicle data, activities, incidentals, targets, and images.

CACTUS (Computer Aided Canine Tracking Utility System) software from KF Software was created by K-9 handlers to allow you to record everything you need, including wind, weather, surface, and distraction information. It supports multiple K-9 logs and allows you to create maps and diagrams. The secure database allows you to print the full log or just the important statistics that you need. The software runs on Windows 95 and newer computers; customizations are available to suit your specific needs.

Keeping Your Cool

K-9s work hard to serve and protect, just like other cops. But they can't change their coats with the weather. Innovative products help keep K-9s' body temperatures in a safe range.

CoolCop, a company known for the device that directs air conditioned or heated air from a patrol car vent under a ballistic vest now offers a similar product to keep K-9 cops comfortable.

CoolK9 was created to keep police K-9 partners cool (or warm) and safe by directing the vehicle's air conditioning to a dog kennel, pet carrier, or police K9 enclosure. It comes with six feet of hose that attaches to the dashboard of a Ford or Chevy with Velcro on one end and to the K-9's enclosure with snap ties. CoolK9 can also be attached to other vehicles' dashboards or rear air conditioning outlets with weather stripping modification. Longer hoses are also available.[PAGEBREAK]

First Choice Armor's K-9 Cooling Vest is designed to cool a dog in training. Its fabric carrier is made of fire retardant Banox with quilted Thromolite insulation with reinforced outerbinding. The vest provides full stomach, chest, and back coverage and has micro-mesh pockets for maximum body heat absorption. The cool packs inside the vest are made from a non-toxic material that is safe even if ingested. Reusable cool packs are available as an option.

Shades n' Things creates and sells tarps designed to shade outdoor kennels to protect K-9s from the sun and rain. The company started out offering eight sizes of shades. Now, the offering has expanded to more than 25, and is still growing. Shades are available in two weights as well as mesh. Shades n' Things adds new sizes of shades to its catalog of products when new sizes of kennels are made, but also creates custom shades when requested.

Unique Tools

The Remote Reward Box from Ray Allen allows you to remotely raise or lower a reward when your K-9 performs well during training, eliminating the effects of handler involvement. The reward box is even more effective because it is enclosed in a Ray Allen Scent Box.

By pressing the "up" button on the remote control from up to 50 feet away the reward is presented to the K-9 directly from within the scent cone. You can also stop the motion of the reward at any point, up or down.

The battery-powered system is fully rechargeable and comes complete with a charger and a battery for the remote control. It operates up to five hours continuously on one charge.

The K-9 rapelling harness with leveling bar from Stuart K-9 Products makes sure your dog doesn't slip from the harness as he descends. Available in large and medium sizes, this harness is made of durable nylon with an inner ballistic material to cradle your dog and protect him during difficult maneuvers conducted while training and on the job. It's available in several colors.

Thought to be a necessity by many K-9 handlers, the Hot-n-Pop Pro from AceK9 combines two useful tools in one device. It monitors the temperature in your K-9's vehicle enclosure, alerting you when it's too "hot," and allows you to remotely "pop" open the door to release the dog from the vehicle when you need his immediate assistance.

The Hot-n-Pop Pro has many redundant features so that if one part of the system fails to work, another part will continue operation. Two separate temperature sensors monitor the inside temperature and alarms such as sirens and horns signal a dangerously hot car.

The door-popping function of the device allows an officer to release a dog with the push of a button. It both unlocks and unlatches the door at once. The door will not release while the car is in motion, hoever, protecting the K-9 from an accidental release.

Regardless of where, when, or what detail you work, you and your K-9 partner need a variety of tools to get the job done efficiently and correctly. While this article is a good starting point, there are many options open to you. Talk to fellow K-9 handlers and ask them what they find useful. You might even want to try some items you haven't seen before. You never know what might work for you and your K-9. Other handlers and the rest of your agency may thank you for it.
CodeBlue Designs
CyberCop Software
First Choice Armor and Equipment
KF Software
Midknight Creations/Doggles
Pinnacle Armor
Point Blank Body Armor
PT Armor
Ray Allen
Second Chance Body Armor
Shade n' Things
Stuart K-9
U.S. Armor Corp.