Keegan: Ford’s Secret Weapon Speaks!
The Chicago Auto Show had a few surprises for the media that made the trip, including a Liquid Silver Ford GT, a beautiful yellow and black Shelby GT350, and the reveal of the Ford Police Interceptor Utility. During that reveal, the automotive press was introduced to Keegan, who helped pull the cover off the new Explorer-based police vehicle.
Keegan, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, is one of five dogs cared for by Emily Stoddard. Emily, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed, runs her own dog training business called Canine Sports Dog Training.
I had a chance to ask Ms. Stoddard a few questions about Keegan and her performance at the auto show.
Since I don’t assume there’s a huge market for dogs that can pull covers off of cars at auto shows, I was curious what Keegan does during the day-to-day.
Keegan first is my companion, she also works as a demo dog for my training company, has taken the roll of my bracing service dog, and if need be can do personal protection work. She has done work in print ads and had a role on Chicago Fire during it’s first season.
That’s right, she’s not a police dog, but she played one on television! She also does personal protection work, which makes her a certified badass.
So how do you exactly train a dog to pull the covers off of a car in front of hundreds of people? Did she need any special training for it?
Keegan needed to know how to pick up and take whatever we were going to need to pull off the car, so a solid trained retrieve was a must. She also needed to be able to send away from me to retrieve the item, all while under heavy distraction. Going to the reveal she had all of the behaviors in her toolbox, we just needed to teach her which ones we wanted and at what time. The morning practice session before the big media event that afternoon was vital to her success.
From being there personally, I would never have guessed that she thought the people were distracting. She was laser-focused on the task at hand, and then her toy afterwards.
While she posed and stood guard over the Ford Police Interceptor Utility, Keegan wore some patches that said “DO NOT PET.” Was that because of the added distraction it would cause?
Keegan needed to look the part of a Police K9 and that means she needed to be seen as off limits to the general public. Keegan is not what I would call snuggly with just anybody, she would much prefer folks toss her ball, than pet her endlessly. The “do not pet” patches forced people to ask to interact with her, which kept us focused and kept her happier. We have put in a lot of training to get that posed look and Keegan knew she was “on the job”, so to speak, when she was posing with people for the photos.
I know I don’t like to be pet when I’m working, so I can totally relate with Keegan wanting to have people keep their hands off! She also needed to look as serious as a heart attack for this role, so that added to it.
If other automakers are interested in stealing Ford’s idea and using her for their own events, I asked if she was available for hire.
Yes, we are represented by Bill Casey of Animal Talent of Chicago, he’s the one that sets up all of Keegan’s appearances. We’ve been working with him since Keegan was seven months old, it’s been great!
She’s also available for non-automotive things, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few automakers didn’t think, “why didn’t we think of that?”
I’d also like to point out that Keegan has a talent agent and I don’t!
Be sure to check out Canine Sports Dog Training on the web! Emily and her team offer a variety of different options for you and your pooch.
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