Santa Ana police K9 Kuno learns the ropes of his new job


At 85 pounds, Santa Ana Police Department K9 and Belgian Malinois Kuno evokes a very specific image: Marmaduke.

“That’s what everybody says,” Sana Ana Police Officer Ryan Shifflett said.

And also, a bit of Scooby-Doo.

“He’s very mellow,” Shifflett said. “He looks like a goofball.”

The 2 1/2-year-old became Shifflett’s new partner, taking over for retired K9 Clyde, in February.

“I was impressed with him the first day,” said Shifflet, who has been a K9 officer for five years. “He wants to please you. You can tell he’s willing to do anything you tell him — unless it’s give up a toy.”

The new partners have been out on patrol in Santa Ana since March 20.

“I’ve had a couple of calls with him,” said Shifflett, including to search a business and a vehicle. “He’s had three give-ups so far, no bites.”

Santa Ana Police Officer Ryan Shifflett with his new K9 partner, Kuno, at police headquarters.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The pair were called out one night for a shooting where the suspect barricaded himself in a house.

“He started barking,” Shifflett said. “The [suspect]immediately came outside. They’re a very effective tool.”

Kuno has adjusted well to his new home with Shifflett and his family, along with their two pet dogs, a Labrador and a Yorkie-poodle, and retired K9 Clyde. While Clyde was initially a little territorial, Kuno quickly made himself at home.

“They got along pretty quick,” Shifflett said.

Shifflett, who has worked at the Santa Ana Police Department for 10 years, is living his lifelong dream of working with dogs.

“I actually wanted to be a vet when I was a kid. I didn’t have the math skills,” he said. “I grew up with dogs. There’s been a dog in the house since before I was born. I always had at least one dog. I used to volunteer at a vet’s clinic when I was 10 or 11 over the summer. They let me watch the surgeries and stuff like that. That was fun.”

It wasn’t until he became a police officer years later that he’d have the opportunity to have a career with dogs. He worked with Dutch shepherd Clyde for five years before the K9 was retired last year.

Santa Ana Police Officer Ryan Shifflett with his new K9 partner, Kuno, at police headquarters.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Now he continues his work with Kuno, who is still learning the ropes but getting the hang of the job. Shifflett trains daily with Kuno, including regular visits to the Sana Ana Police Department’s K9 field.

“He’s more affectionate than Clyde ever was … Kuno is a leaner, he likes to lean up against you,” Shifflett said.

Kuno gets along with other dogs easily and loves to play with his toys — especially his knotted rope tug. 

Recently, Clyde and Kuno were playing tug-of-war in the backyard with a rope toy and Clyde pulled it with all his might. Kuno just let Clyde pull. But then Kuno demonstrated his own formidable strength.

“‘OK I want my rope back,’ and he just kind of yanked it out of Clyde’s mouth,” Shifflett said with a laugh.