Background & Training

Since 1990, Maine Specialty Dogs/Maine State Police have trained the ignitable liquid detection dogs used by the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office. The certification process is for both the handler and canine as a team and is conducted by the Maine State Police and the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. These teams are part of our agency's Bureau of Investigations (BOI).

k-9 and investigator working scene

The canine program was initially funded solely through donations. As the program has grown and proven itself, the maintenance of the canines is funded through the division's operating budget. The initial certification of the canine and its handler is still funded by State Farm Insurance Company. The certification program lasts up to five weeks and includes testing for both the canine and handler. This is when the Investigators and K-9s are introduced and begin working together. The team is required to take a 3-day recertification course each year.

Labrador retrievers are chosen for this particular program due to their size, love for work, and drive to eat. They are trained using a food-reward system that is based on both food and praise. When not working at a fire scene, K-9 handlers maintain the dogs every day. Their routine can include anything from working or practicing at a fire scene to performing a demonstration for public groups or working on scent discrimination. During downtime, the canines enjoy the company and home life of the family with whom they live.

The handlers are provided with specially equipped vehicles for safely transporting and housing their canines. These vehicles are equipped with a custom-made cage, which replaces the rear seat. In addition, each vehicle is equipped with a temperature monitoring device and an automatic fan with window roll down system.

After the dogs retire from duty, they continue to enjoy living with their handlers and their families.