The Cleveland Police Canine Unit was created in the spring of 1989, when fourteen officers were selected to become members of Cleveland's first Canine Unit. These officers were chosen for their willingness to make a special commitment to the training, and daily care of a Police Canine, by welcoming the dog into their home to live. A Police Canine handler must not only feed and care for their dog, but they are required to practice daily exercises so that the dog will be prepared at all times to meet any challenge which the team may be called upon to perform.
The Police Officer handler and their canines received 16 weeks of intensive training by Robert Compton, a master trainer with the North American Police Work Dog Association. Classes were conducted to train the team to search for lost persons, criminal suspects, evidence, narcotics, and explosives.
The officer handler learns specific signals and the use of specific collars which, after training, the canine understands not only what it is looking for during a search but how to signal its handler once the evidence or person has been found. The dog also learns to relax at home with the officer handler's family. At the end of the training program, a deep bond of communication has been formed between the officer handler and his or her dog so that during a search the team will be able to focus on the task at hand.