A detective at the Morris County Sheriff's Office and his four year old K-9 partner appear on the 8th episode of A&E's "America's Top Dog" reality series, 9p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26.

Detective Corporal Michael McMahon has been with his Belgian Malinois dog since Kai was eight weeks old. Kai has been trained by the department as a dual purpose patrol and narcotics section dog.

McMahon said being on the show was not his idea. He had a chat at a Protection Sports Association competition with a casting agent. Then his wife, Michelle, a master dog trainer, submitted an application on his behalf in the spring of 2019. McMahon said he received a call, was interviewed and invited to be on the show. In June, he and Kai boarded a flight to Santa Clara, California, where the series was filmed.

#TeamKai is one of 50 K-9 teams — both civilian and law enforcement related — battling for the title and the $25,000 grand prize. Each episode features five K-9 teams. The winner from each episode advances to the finale in mid-March.

McMahon called the experience a great test of the bonds between the handler and the dog and a testament to one's training plus the time and energy the teams put in. It was also fun, he said.

The first phase of the challenges on "America's Top Dog" is a test of agility between the handler and the dog. There's also a water challenge in a pool. The second phase is referred to as "the boneyard," which is a detection test and probably one of the most difficult challenge on the show. McMahon said there's a few thousand-square-foot maze and the dog is searching for five scented items.

The "doghouse" phase is the elimination challenge. Only two dogs move on to the doghouse. It's a test of communication and the bonds between the dog and handler through an obstacle course and an apprehension.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Detective Corporal, Mike McMahon and K-9 Partner, Kai. Photo courtesy of The Morris County Sheriff's Office
Morris County Sheriff's Office Detective Corporal, Mike McMahon and K-9 Partner, Kai.
Photo courtesy of The Morris County Sheriff's Office

McMahon said Kai has handled his TV experience and all the attention well. That's because he's had Kai since he was a puppy.

"We have a really good bond. I think he has the nicest temperament of any working dog I've ever worked with. He has the ability, like a light switch they say, to turn it on and turn it off. When he knows it's time to work, he's ready to go. When he knows it's time to relax with family, he's able to do that as well," said McMahon.

Team Kai's episode has been dubbed "The Battle of the Garden State" because there is another law enforcement team from Red Bank also. McMahon said Patrolman Stan Balmer and his K-9, Hunter, another Belgian Malinois, appear on Wednesday night's episode. Hunter joined the Red Bank squad in 2015. McMahon said this is the only episode where two teams from New Jersey are being represented.

The winner team from each episode brings back $10,000 to their respective agency. They also get to select a charity and award $5,000 to the charity of their choice.

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