Another Toy Poodle Joins Japanese Police Ranks

Naomi Yasuda

Police in Japan's Kyoto Prefecture have enlisted a four-year-old toy poodle to join its crime-fighting ranks, joining a growing number of Japanese police departments that are taking on miniature canines.

Mochi passed his police dog exam last month, after six months of training. He is the third toy poodle to join the police ranks, but the first to be enlisted as a sniffer dog.

Kyoto police said that Mochi has been trained to detect drugs, explosives, and other odors, and will be used on a "case-by-case" basis for the next year.

Weighing less than 4 pounds, Mochi is considered small for a toy poodle, but his owner Naomi Yasuda says he has the smarts of larger, more traditional canines. He has already been trained as a therapy dog, and has spent the last few years providing affection and comfort to nursing home patients.

"Mochi has always been at the top of his class, in training school," Yasuda told ABC News. "I just wanted to find a way for him to help others."

Japanese police departments have traditionally used larger dogs like German shephards for their canine force, but they have increasingly turned to smaller breeds in recent years. Last year, toy poodles Karin and Fuga became minor celebrities after qualifying for the police force in Tottori Prefecture. A few years ago, Miniature Schnauzer "Kuu" joined the local police force in Wakayama, while long-haired Chihuahua "Momo" qualified for duty, alongside Beagle "Ginny."

The emergence of the alternative breeds isn't coincidence. Some police departments struggling to recruit large dogs recently amended rules that said tinier pups weren't fit for duty. They proved their worth in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami last year, when they crawled into tiny spaces their counterparts could not, in search of bodies.