Frankie, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, works with the Waldo County Sheriff's Department, tracking and performing article searches. His handler, Detective Sgt. Merl Reed, took him to the Freedom Grange on Sept. 11, to demonstrate the dog's abilities and talk about his training.

Reed, a 20-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department, explained how he's known Frankie for 3 1/2 years and works with him daily.

"Working dogs you have to train every day," Reed said.

According to Reed, Frankie is a bit high-strung and "loses his mind with toys. He couldn't stay focused.

"If I let him go outside, he'll just do laps around the building," Reed said.

The Sheriff's Office acquired Frankie to take over for retiring drug detection dog Neva, a 10-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever. Neva served as the department's drug detection dog from her graduation from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in November 2006 until her retirement in June 2015.

Neva now lives with Reed and Frankie at the sergeant's home.

Prior to joining the Sheriff's Office, Frankie went through a screening process to give law enforcement officials a general sense of how they could use him.

Reed said Frankie had learned only basic training commands when he started working with him, but "he was a quick learner and was food-driven."

Reed used the operant conditioning method of training, which stresses positive reinforcement to teach behavior and a conditioned reinforcer (a clicker or repetitive command) as an event marker.

"In the beginning we wait until they look at us — then we work it, with a treat," Reed said.

Frankie also trains twice a month at the police academy in Vassalboro for tracking and drug training.

On this day, Reed demonstrated Frankie's abilities as a tracker by hiding a plastic bag with a heroin-type drug under a rug while the dog was out of the room. He then led Frankie back in and said, "Go to work."

Frankie quickly circled the room, stopping at a few areas to further investigate a smell, then doubled back, and finally narrowed his search to the rug.

"My job as trainer is to watch his behavior," Reed said. "When you see his head snap, you know he's showing interest in an area."

Frankie likes to cheat, too, Reed said. If there is an obvious object in the room, he will go check that out first.

He also said some tracks are not always successful: "You can't force him."

Reed said Frankie has been trained to track lost people and burglars and look for lost articles. He is certified to track drugs including heroin, methamphetamines, crack and cocaine. With recent changes in Maine, marijuana is no longer on the list of drugs to track.

Someone asked if Frankie had his own bed at home. Reed said he did, but that "he gets kind of grumpy when Neva gets on it."

At the office, Frankie is usually "under my desk most of the day," Reed said.

About his job as a handler, he said, "I wouldn't want to do anything else as a career" and that Frankie "is a great asset to have on the department."