By Giacomo Brunelli @giacomobrunelli
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Videographer / director: Jay Beauchamp
Producer: Giacomo Brunelli, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Ted Summers, their main decoy, told BTV: “We focus exclusively on law enforcement work, and we do three phases of work: one is detection, two is tracking and then we teach the dog to bite.”
“I jokingly say that I teach dogs to find stuff and bite people.”
Having worked in the field for many years, Ted cannot even remember how many times he has been bit.
He said: “These dogs bite people for a living, that’s what they do - I can’t count the number of times I’ve been bit.”
Torchlight trains their dogs right from as soon as the puppies are able, as they also have a breeding programme.
“We breed them and raise them then from the time they’re puppies, at about eight weeks old, we start preparing them for the job” explained Ted.
The company breeds and trains Dutch and German shepherds, but their main breed is the super agile Belgian Malinois.
“The breed originated in Belgium, and they are extremely fast and powerful” said Ted.
Due to their hyperactive and sometimes aggressive nature, these are not the type of dogs you would want in your home.
Ted explained: “The things that make them great working dogs, and make them great at what they do, make them terrible pets - they tend to be a little extra than your average pet.”
The qualities that Ted looks for in a dog are sociability, environmental stability in dark rooms with loud noises, and health.
“If we have a dog that doesn’t meet the standards, and if they don’t possess that drive, we will place them in pet homes where they can hang out in people’s backyards,” said Ted.
Governments have been trying to develop machines that can detect contraband, narcotics, explosives and people, but Ted claims these have never managed to match what dogs do.
He said: “The government has spent a bazillion dollars on trying to make a machine that does it and they still can’t beat the dog’s nose - they can smell and hear things we can’t.”
What makes Torchlight really stand out in the world of police dogs training is the sheer number of dogs they train.
Ted said: “What makes us different is we do this a lot, and we do a good job at it. We have more dogs go through our hands in a quarter than most canine handlers will see in their entire career.”
Ted has faced criticism in the past, as some accuse Torchlight of training dogs to become aggressive.
“There's a big misconception in the public that we create aggression. Now, of course we have to have dogs that are aggressive” said Ted.
However, these dogs have been selectively bred over decades to be more aggressive by nature.
“Through selective breeding throughout the last hundred years, we’ve created dogs that genetically have a propensity for high levels of violence,” said Ted.
This kind of aggressive nature is actually essential for police dogs.
“Violence is needed when you are apprehending somebody that intends to do harm to somebody, that has every intention of evading law enforcement,” Ted explained.
When actually working with the police, the dogs actually rarely bite and are used more as deterrents than anything else.
“They are absolutely a deterrent, you’re either giving them a mode of compliance or consequences for noncompliance,” explained Ted.
Ted works with his fiancé Alicia, who is also an experienced dog trainer and the “mother” of their business.
“I’m the glue that keeps everyone together, I wrangle everybody and give everybody crap, I’m a Jill of all trades and master of none,” said Alicia.
Ted and Alicia are both really proud of how far they’ve come with Torchlight K-9 and look forward to a successful future.
“This is a dream come true, we are a part of protecting our communities and that’s very important to me,” explained Alicia.
“I am exceptionally proud of our teams,” added Ted.