Stockton K-9 Team Wins National Explosives Detection Dog Title
Galloway, N.J. ‒ K-9 Freya proved she has what it takes to be top dog at the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) National Detector Dog Trials in Georgia last week.
Freya, a 6-year-old golden retriever, and handler Lt. Tracy Stuart competed in the annual event for narcotics, accelerant and explosives detection dogs in Lowndes County, Georgia, Sept. 18-23. The Stockton University duo faced explosives detection teams from all levels, including local, county, state, federal and military K-9 units.
The teams were tested in general odor recognition as well as searching parcels, vehicles and rooms. The competition tests both the handler and the dog who must work together to locate the hidden explosives.
Stockton’s team took first-place honors in the parcel and vehicle searches and placed first overall in the explosives detection competition.
“I take every opportunity to train with Freya—anywhere we can.” Stuart said. “I expose her to different settings and environments to improve her situational adaptability, proficiency and overall effectiveness.”
As soon as Freya picks up on an odor that she has been trained to recognize, she alerts Stuart by sitting down and focusing her attention on the location.
“K-9s in general are an amazing tool for law enforcement. Besides their incredible scent capabilities, these dogs are loyal, protective, intelligent and skilled,” Stuart said. “They are attuned to human emotions. Freya is all of those things and so much more to me. It is truly a blessing to say she is my K-9 partner.”
While they were still in Georgia, Freya was all too happy to receive a celebratory Starbucks pup cup.
“Now that we have returned home, she will ride the wave with some broiled salmon, which I am sure she will share with her buddy Hemi,” she said.
Stuart and her original K-9 partner, Hemi, were the national champions in the 2018 and 2019 events. The chocolate lab retired in 2020. Last year Stuart and Freya finished in third place in the national championship trials held in Trenton.
Stuart said she is elated to have achieved this championship honor with both K-9s.
“I am extremely fortunate to be the handler and now trainer of a canine with unlimited capacity. I have also been blessed enough to have access to exceptional K-9 trainers such as my dear friend and mentor retired Chief Thomas Conroy, the New Jersey State Police and others for detection training,” she said.
Stuart added, “I would also like to express my gratitude to the university staff who provided training resources, which no doubt assisted in our detection success, as well as my agency and the university itself for supporting our efforts. This success is a win for us all.”
Participation in these national events is voluntary and extremely demanding. It allows police dog teams the opportunity to test their skills against many of the very best dogs in the nation, while sharing training techniques and the latest intelligence with other law enforcement.
The Stockton University Police K-9 team is part of the NJ Detect and Render Safe Task Force and provides assistance in explosives detection operations both locally and statewide. The team is dedicated to the safety, security, and education of the Stockton community and regularly conducts precautionary searches to detect and deter crime.
Stuart and Freya will also be featured in a documentary on the competition, showing a handler’s day-to-day experience as they prepare for the detection dog competition. The show will air on ESPN in November.
Director of Strategic Communications
Galloway, N.J. 08205