TALLMADGE — The Tallmadge Police Department has a new recruit from Canada.

Tallmadge Police Officer Nate Ickes traveled to New York to pick up Mattis, a 2-year-old German shepherd raised in Canada who will be training over the next few months in drug detection, tracking, searches and apprehension.

Ickes said he was looking for a dog with a switch who knows when to work and when to relax and be a dog. The switch allows Mattis to be a community dog where the public can see and touch him when he’s not working with the police.

“We’re working on bonding and trust,” Ickes said. “He has a ball he enjoys playing with.”

Bonding involves taking him on walks, petting him, brushing him, giving him baths, hand feeding and love, he said. 

“We spend time together, and I let him know I’m here for him and he needs to be here for me,” Ickes said.

For peak performance, an officer has to trust his dog, read the dog and understand his personality, he said. He has to follow the dog’s lead and not his own opinion, he said.

“What is the dog telling you?” Ickes said. “Once you learn that, trust falls into place.”

The biggest challenge is a language barrier, Ickes said. Mattis was trained in German and he has to teach him to obey English orders.

Training will begin in another week and go into April or May before he takes the state test to be certified, he said. The test involves showing everything he needs to know in the field. He’ll have an unknown track with three turns; find narcotics in a building and in a car; work off his lead; handle gunfire; and show obedience.

Mattis won’t meet the public until after he’s certified, he added. 

Mattis replaces Tallmadge Police K-9 Axel who was diagnosed with cancer and died in December after serving the community more than 7 years. Ickes was his handler and carries over his experience in training Mattis.

Later Mattis will have group obedience and be introduced to other dogs such as K-9 Kato on the Tallmadge force. Kato is a 2-year-old German shepherd who went on duty in May 2019. 

The department used social media to share the news about K-9 Mattis joining the force and Facebook post garnered lots of praise for Mattis.

Several commenters let Mattis know they were glad to have him, while others remarked on how handsome the new member of the police department was.

“So handsome!!!!,” one commenter said. “Congrats Nate!!! Welcome Mattis!!! We are looking forward to seeing you both out and about proudly protecting our city.”

Another commenter added “You’ve got big paw prints to fill but we are so glad you’re here! Welcome officer Mattis!!!”

The department sells T-shirts and accepts donations to offset the costs of maintaining the dogs.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com