Officers Kyle Slater with Copper and Michael Little with Kane may have come from the smallest community at the Western States Police Canine Association Trials but they landed on top at both the Yuba City Police K9 Trials and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s K9 Trials, giving them the title of the Top Team of the Year. Their competition was stiff, having to face off with teams from large communities such as Stockton, Yuba City and Sonoma County.

“It’s a really big deal for us,” Little said. “I thought it was cool to go up against the biggies and come out on top.”

Slater said there is a lot of joy in both the training and the trials. The team puts in four hours every week in training and also trained with other professionals.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Slater said of the competitions. “Competing as a team is great, and our co-workers, family and friends come out to watch. We’re both new handlers so this is really great to win.”

K9 officers Copper and Kane went through the paces for obedience, agilities, search and patrol. Little said the two four-legged officers have different strengths, which make them a hard pair to beat.

“Kane likes to use his nose,” Little said. “He loves the attention. Copper is very fast and physical.”

The obedience trial has handlers just using hand signals for their K9 counterparts and no leashes allowed. Their agility was tested going through ladders and tunnels. The search section of the trials has dogs finding someone hiding, and handlers must stay at a distance while they work. The patrol phase of the trials has the dogs experience three to five scenarios where they find their suspects but don’t engage, just giving their handlers the signal that they’ve found the suspects.

Little said the experience for the team is a valuable tool and also engages the communities where they’re held.

“It shows the public what the dogs can do,” Little said. “(All the competitions) get a good turn-out from the communities where they’re sponsored.”

Both Galt K9 officers are relatively young. Copper is 4 years old and Kane just 2. Both were born on the same birthday of Feb. 5. Copper is a Dutch shepherd while Kane is a German shepherd. Little said he had no trouble bonding with Kane, who’s now just part of the family.

“He’s a lot like me, with open arms and a warm heart,” Little said. “He’s best buds with my other dog, Gunner.”

Slater said Copper is just one of the family and very “spoiled.” He wears a collar that has his name on it, but Slater said a lot of people misread it and call him “Cooper.”

He was the family dog long before he became Slater’s partner on the force. He credits his wife Sabrina for bringing Copper into their lives.

“My wife and I went to a fundraiser for the Stockton Police Department,” Slater said. “They were auctioning off one of Copper’s brothers but she didn’t win. We ended up contacting the owners and bought Copper. She loves him. We started working with him from a puppy.”

Slater said Copper also loves all the attention he gets while competing. Both he and Copper really enjoy working with Little and Kane.

“Copper is always snooping around,” Slater said. “He loves it as much as we do. He is really quick and smart – sometimes almost too smart. He’s also really social. We’ll have a barbecue and he’ll be milling around with our guests.”

New trials will begin next year in the spring. Western States Police Canine Association sponsors the trials.