Make this your home for fetching the finest products and retrieving loads of valuable all Labrador Retriever information.  Shop for the Lab, For the Lab Lover, For the Lab Home, and browse our Labrador Library to see why for the last 10 years we’re Your Leading Labrador Retriever Resource

Christmas Store

The holidays are just around the corner so now is the time to fetch the finest gifts for the Labrador Lover on your Christmas list. We have over 100 gifts $50.00 and under. Visit our Christmas Store.

For the Lab
Collars and Leads
Dog Bowls
Feeding Stations
Spa and Grooming
Toys and Treats
Travel and Accessories

For the Lab Lover
Cards and Giftwrap
Fine Accessories
Gifts and All Occasions
Kids Only

For the Lab Home
Garden and Outdoor
Home Furnishings
Kitchen Accessories
Pillows, Throws, and Rugs

Gift ServicesGift Boxes
Gift Certificates

Nose Job
By Ellen English
Melissa Stormer remembers well the first search that she and her drug detection dog Murphy Brown were assigned. Stemming from a search warrant for a big drug dealer in a nearby county, it was pretty stressful, Melissa recalls, a lot of hurry up and wait. Tactical S.W.A.T. teams surrounded the house, placed the owner under arrest and then we were called in to sweep (a rapid and very tiring type of search) for narcotics. Here comes this little blonde woman and her rookie Lab, we got a lot of skeptical looks! Murphy dispelled any doubts. By detecting not only marijuana and cocaine but also residue of methamphetamine, shed completed her job like an old pro.

Just four years old in June, Murphys a home-bred girl from Melissa and her husband Jims Great Lakes Kennel in Ridgeway, Wisconsin. As you might have guessed, Murphys name came from the television character. My husband Jim liked to watch Murphy Brown and we both admire a strong willed, working professional woman who speaks her mind. Those are good characteristics for a narcotics detection dog, so it seemed a good fit for the pick of the litter chocolate female. Chosen out of the litter based on her athletic build and her out-going, confident nature, she began her training with a puppy class and retrieving games that built her desire to work. She was also socialized more thoroughly than the average dog, learning to negotiate a wide variety of situations from noisy school hallways to slippery floors and frequent trips in the car.

At 18 months of age, Murphy started her official detector dog training. Melissa chose to train with John Lutenberg, a criminal investigator with the Colorado Department of Corrections and a highly respected trainer. One of the relatively few trainers in the region that is permitted to store, handle and introduce actual narcotics (as opposed to pseudo) for training purposes, John personally oversaw Murphys training.

Murphy learned to detect and alert on the odor of narcotics, one at a time, at the Colorado Dept. of Corrections K9 training academy in Canon City, Melissa explains, this was a four month long process. Each narcotic is presented and trained-on one at a time. The dogs begin with what is considered the kindergarden scent: marijuana. Because it is has a strong, distinctive odor and is frequently discovered in large quantities, it is generally the easiest to find. Other narcotics, such as cocaine, which have a more subtle odor and are generally found in smaller quantities, are introduced as training progresses. The odors Murphy will detect include crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana, hashish, methamphetamine, and Ecstasy. An important element in a narcotic detection dogs training is to never alert based on a visual, only on scent.

Their training grounds were certainly intense. Located near Colorado Springs, Canon City is sometimes referred to as the worlds prison capital. With 14 prisons situated within the county, it provides a unique opportunity to prepare a dog to perform in a stressful working environment. To qualify as Murphys handler, Melissa worked with already certified, experienced dogs. As a team, they had to take their first certification test there together to graduate.

Murphy's first USPCA certification, in May of 2001, meant a great deal. She was only 2, never tested before, and she won the Top Rookie Dog score trophy as well as scoring fifth overall. All the points taken off were handler error, not on the dog. We consider the USPCA test difficult, prestigious, and an important national level of expertise to always keep shooting for. The team also takes certification tests with the Dept. of Corrections and the North American Police Work Dog Association.

The teams searches range from traffic stops to sweeping casinos and even the summertime Rave parties that usually involve drug use. Ecstasy and methamphetamine are particularly popular since the ingredients for both are common to the mid-west, Melissa explains. They also do quite a few school searches. Labs have a kind, social demeanor and are not a bite danger or risk to children or any other people during searches. This helps keep the shepherd breeds busy on the street, and reduces liability issues on public property. We routinely work in neighboring counties and cities with other K9 teams that need extra help and backup. They never know when theyll be called, it might be as often as 3 times a week or as seldom as once a month. We need to be available around the clock.

Like most working dogs, Murphy knows when its time to do her job. Adrenaline from her handler and the stimuli of the situation are enough to cue her to work. For Murphy, the collar and leash set that are only used for searches and the command from Melissa to show me dope or just dope, also kick this K9 narcotics officer into high gear. Capitalizing on her specialized training and her natural sense of smell, hundreds of times more powerful than that of a human, she methodically sniffs the target vehicle or area shes asked to. While her alert is categorized as aggressive, i.e. she paws at the point of the odor source or tries to dig at it, one great advantage is that Murphy has well-padded feet with blunted nails, so she doesnt damage paint finish on vehicles or school lockers that she hits on.

While the service they provide is rewarding, it can certainly be a thankless job and one that puts them in very intimidating situations. Murphys enthusiasm for her work helps keep Melissa focused on the job at hand. Were never welcomed by the suspect, she explains, Murphy has been kicked at and spit on. Thankfully, the pair has never been injured but they take along somewhat of an entourage to help prevent any possible attacks. Murphys best friend, Evan, is a Doberman trained in protection work and very bonded to both Murphy and Melissa. He goes along and watchesit has a psychological effect on criminals-they see him and it seems to calm them down.

While most working dogs receive praise and/or a reward right away, a narcotic detector dog like Murphy is given a very subdued reward, more like a release. Until the source of the scent she has indicated on can be confirmed, Melissa can only say OK, were all done. It may be minutes later or even a day or two later before the results of their work is verified. A big reward like a game of tug or fetch would be inappropriate at the scene since it is also critical that the areas Murphy searches be disturbed as little as possible so that evidence can be preserved. So how does Murphy do her job and keep her motivation without the traditional, immediate praise that most training is based on? Amazingly, her work is based on the original imprinting done in training and is reinforced with regular training sessions.

Murphy particularly enjoys the educational demonstrations that the team gives with DARE officers: her tail never stops wagging she lives for them, she smiles the whole time. And her favorite toy? Anything with a squeaker! Melissa explains, but her favorites are a stuffed monkey toy (that she lives and dies for!) and the little stuffed Minnesota Vikings football player that comes in handy at demonstrations. The Green Bay Packers are a big deal here in Wisconsin. When we do a demo, I put Murphys Green Bay Packer collar on, then when she takes the Minnesota Vikings player in her mouth, the crowd goes wildand the donations come out right away!

Off duty, on the familys 200 wooded acres, her favorite activity, paws down, is swimming. When its hot outside, we have to call her in out of the pond, even after dark. Shell just stay in the water, all day and night! For this dedicated drug detection dog, its a well deserved diversion.

Tail End:

For more on the training and work of narcotic detection dogs, visit:

The United States Police Canine Association website.

The North American Police Work Dog Association. 

The Canine Training Academy  and Trainer John Lutenburg.

Click here to go back to Lab of the Month

Featured Article

Can You Spot The Holiday Hazards?

It’s easy for pets, especially Labradors, to get into trouble during the holidays. You may get so busy that you lose track of what is going on with your dog.

Click here to learn more about: "Can You Spot The Holiday Hazards?"
Wanted: Models

Would you like to see your Lab pictured here? Send us images of your Lab and we may include them on our Home Page!