Campbell and Nate have been together 24/7 since becoming partners in November, as Campbell takes Nate home after work.
“He’s literally at my hip all the time,” Campbell said. The city owns the dog, but Campbell is responsible for his care.
Campbell has been in law enforcement seven years and has been with the Canton Police Department since 2010. He got the job as K-9 officer in November, and he and Nate were certified as a K-9 unit earlier this month.
In Canton, Campbell has been part of the department’s uniform patrol division but said moving into the traffic division was one of his career goals.
As for working as a K-9 handler, Campbell said he’d thought about doing it at some point in his career.
“I never thought the opportunity would arise so quickly,” he said.
Campbell has owned yellow Labrador retrievers, Nate’s breed, most of his life. Campbell also currently has a yellow Lab as a pet.
At work, Nate’s assignments revolve around tracking scents, whether it’s sniffing out drugs or the trail of a missing person.
“We’re assigned to the traffic division. Our main function is human tracking, missing persons and narcotics,” Campbell said.
Campbell and Nate can be called out to traffic stops if the responding officer suspects illegal drugs are present. Nate can track the drugs and will signal to Campbell if he finds any.
Nate has been on the job in Canton since February. Campbell took over as his handler when the department’s previous K-9 officer left.
“Nate already knew what to do. I was the one that needed training,” Campbell said.
Campbell and Nate attended a three-week basic handler school earlier this month.
Campbell said the handler training taught him how to control Nate and helped him learn more about Nate.
“Things like why he tracks, why he detects narcotics,” he said.
The duo had to pass a certification test at the end of the school, with Nate tracking scents in buildings and vehicles.
The pair will need to be recertified every year. Campbell and Nate train regularly on the job.
“It’s ongoing. We’ll continue to grow as a team and work hand-in-hand,” Campbell said.
While Campbell and Nate are learning to work together, Campbell said Nate sometimes gets frustrated.
“Because I’m a new handler, I’m a little slower. If we’re on a track, he’ll want to pull me or try to shoot past me. He’s got a mind of his own, and he wants to do things his way,” he said.
Campbell said he can’t treat Nate like a pet because it could interfere with his training. Nate keeps a rigid schedule when it comes to eating and rewards.
“He gets his reward and affection at work,” Campbell said. Nate gets a “paycheck” of toys from the police department.
“If you treat him as a pet, he loses his drive. Nate was selected (for police work) because of his drive,” Campbell said.
Nate does have play time built into his workday and enjoys running around outside.
“Ultimately, he is a dog, and we try to let him express that,” Campbell said.