Charlotte's very own superpower dogs

Discovery Place Science

Currently playing at Discovery Place Science’s IMAX® Dome Theatre, the film Superpower Dogs introduces us to skilled pups from all over the world. This made us curious about our four-legged heroes at home.

Sit, Stay, Roll Over

All dog owners and their tail-wagging best friends are familiar with the commands sit, stay and roll over. They’re commonly taught to animals to make life at the dog park a little easier and, sometimes, you may even come across a part-time thespian that can play dead or offer a paw for a dignified shake. We want to introduce you to the dogs from All Aspects Dog Training and Service Dogs and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office K9-Unit, all of whom take that training a lot further.

Local Legends

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All Aspects Dog Training and Service Dogs is a family-owned organization that empowers veterans, children and other individuals who have health concerns with trained dogs like Hercules. Regina Hickey and her daughter Tess Hickey are the owners and head trainers here.

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In 2017, they brought 11 puppies to their home to start their nonprofit. At eight weeks old, the pups began positive exercises starting with a process called “free shaping,” which teaches the dogs to think, make decisions and focus. Regina and Tess then use clicker tricks to teach nose and foot targets. At six months old, the puppies start obedience training and their tricks become tasks such as item retrieval, pushing an elevator button, opening a door and more.

As you might expect, living with so many animals can get a little crazy. Not many can say that part of their chore list is to vacuum their living room walls to remove dander, and there’s only so many times Tess can use the excuse that the dog ate her homework, even if it’s true!

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Though they hope to one day move operations out of their home, the Hickeys don’t mind the inconveniences too much because they get so much value from the work. Dogs provide veterans with a sense of security and peace of mind. Tess says her favorite part about training dogs is seeing people who weren’t social before return to the public. Their service animals can, quite literally, change their lives.

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Hercules was placed with a veteran in Sarasota, Florida who does search and rescue work. He’ll become a “cadaver dog,” training in scent detection so he can locate human remains. In recent years, they’ve also placed a diabetic alert dog, psychiatric service dog, seizure assistance dog and more.

Did you know?

Currently, they are on the search for more dogs to do this important work. It’s not as easy as you may think because not every dog makes the cut to be a service dog. Each dog has to have the right temperament; they can’t be too nervous or get distracted easily.

For more information and to get involved, click here.

Follow the Law-brador

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The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office K9-Unit is another local resource featuring trained pups and their human partners. Six-year-old Labrador Aggie has been a member of the force for three years alongside Deputy Zackary Morton. 

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Aggie completes a minimum of 16 hours of training per month to stay proficient. Aggie is a “bomb dog”, which means she’s trained to locate explosives, firearms and ammunition. Deputy Morton guides her during a search, for example, checking vehicles and, if she accurately alerts that she has located an explosive, her reward is her cone toy. (Treats aren’t rewards because they want the dogs to stay in shape.)

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Some of Aggie’s coworkers are patrol dogs. They have a different set of skills that help keep the community safe, including tracking and completing drug and area searches. The K-9 unit typically works Carolina Panthers game, parades, festivals, at high schools, the courthouse and sometimes partners with other agencies in nearby counties. If you see Aggie or other working animals around town, make sure to ask the officers before you approach them.

Did you know?

We all worry about these beautiful animals, especially when we see them in a police car on a hot day. However, each car has a custom cage equipped with a heat alarm so that if a dog is left in the vehicle with no air conditioning, the alarm will audibly alert the officer and the car windows will automatically roll down while built-in fans blow cool air into the car. 

Learn more about dogs with extraordinary jobs in Superpower Dogs, now playing in the IMAX Dome Theatre. For tickets and showtimes click here.

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  • Discovery Place