PALMETTO — Kanin the K-9 officer was willing to serve and protect the citizens of Palmetto.
There was just one problem: He didn’t like biting the bad guys.
The Palmetto Police Department removed the 15-month-old German shepherd from the beat a month ago because he couldn’t develop the mean streak necessary to apprehend the city’s most wanted.
His handler, Officer Jeff Lewis, has been riding solo since a pair of certified trainers agreed Kanin’s bite would never match his bark.
“To him, it was like, ‘I’m going to do this, but I don’t really want to,’ ” Lewis, 28, said of Kanin’s reluctance to bite on command. “We couldn’t get that corrected. ... It’s like if somebody tells you to do something you don’t want to do, you’re going to do it, but you’re probably not going to be very good at it.”
The big, rambunctious puppy raced around Lewis’ west Bradenton backyard Friday afternoon after being let out of his kennel.
It has been a while since his last obedience lesson, which might explain why he grabbed a plastic planter in his teeth, dropped it briefly when Lewis yelled a command, then picked it back up and ran away as soon as Lewis glanced in the opposite direction.
“He’s just a normal dog, a household pet,” Lewis said with a shrug.
At about five months old, Kanin was donated to the Palmetto Police Department by an Ellenton man who had planned to train him for home protection. But Kanin outgrew the house.
So the puppy went to live with Lewis, his wife, Dana, and their two dogs, shepherd mix Brownie and miniature dachshund Peanut.
A couple of days after Kanin moved in, Dana gave birth to Benjamin, now 10 months old.
Dana and Benjamin kept their distance to make sure Kanin didn’t get too aggressive during his training.
“At the beginning, we weren’t sure if he would work or not, so I personally tried not to get too attached because of that,” Dana Lewis said. “He is a very sweet dog.”
According to experts, it was a long shot that Kanin would ever become a police dog. Most K-9 officers are bred for the job and trained from a very early age.
“He just never showed the traits of being a trained service dog. He was just a big puppy,” Palmetto Police Lt. Scott Tyler said of Kanin.
“Service dogs often come from dedicated breeders, so they have bloodlines. You have a reasonable expectation the dog will become a service dog.”
The Palmetto department has one other K-9 officer and hopes to obtain a second to replace Kanin.
Tyler said the department uses dogs for tracking, apprehension of suspects, narcotics detection and searches.
Linda Werlein, who owns Von Arsgard K-9 Center in Myakka City, said ideal police dogs are made from 65 percent instinct and just 35 percent training.
If the instinct is lacking, the training won’t take hold, she said.
“The key is the selection of the dog in the first place,” Werlein said. “If you take the average American German shepherd on the street, three out of 30 might be selected for police work.”
His days on the streets complete, Kanin is looking to join a family and be a regular pet. The Palmetto City Commission declared him surplus property at a meeting earlier this month and hopes to have him adopted after the city attorney drafts a suitable waiver.
Lewis will miss his partner.
“Because I’ve had him for so long, I’m attached to him,” he said. “I’ve been told they’re working on getting me another dog to use. If I didn’t have that, it would probably be a lot harder.”