A Round of A-Paws for Disneyland Resort’s Security K9 Unit

Disneyland Resort Security K9 Unit

Before guests enter Disneyland Resort, they first meet the security team in charge of protecting the magic. Standing at the gates and patrolling the entrances, these cast members ensure that all guests not only have the most magical day at our parks, but also the safest.

The security team is made up of multiple units, but there is one that stands out – on four feet! Meet a couple members on the Disneyland Resort’s Security K9 Unit, including their canines who are just as much cast members as their handlers.

Dexter and Ka$h in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle
Dexter and Ka$h (Belgian Malinois)

Dexter first started during the construction of Disney California Adventure park as a construction security officer. After a year of working in security, including a stint with the motor unit and patrolling the park with a vehicle, he was introduced to the K9 unit as he began assisting with vehicle checks. This partnership with the K9 unit led him to a job opening within the team, where he’s been working ever since.

“Technically, it was one of those unplanned things,” Dexter reminisces. “I went to Disney thinking, ‘Okay, this is gonna be a summer job, temporarily.’ And then it becomes fun. The interaction with our guests and the other cast members is cool… especially after I joined the K9 team. It’s totally different because you have a partner that you actually work with every day.”

Dexter’s favorite part about working with his Belgian Malinois, Ka$h, is the connection he feels to him. “It’s a partnership between – or the bond I should say – the bond between you and an animal to go through all the process in training, and then to trust your life for his ability to keep everybody safe – you and our guests.” In an effort to better explain the relationship between himself and Ka$h, Dexter thought of a metaphor: “It’s basically like a dance partner for you. You try to perform a duty, or a specific job, and you are a team: your dog and the handler.”

While working on the K9 team could understandably be a very serious job, Dexter knows Ka$h will always be excited for another day as a cast member. “Every time he sees me he’s like, ‘All right!’ For us, it’s work. But for them, it’s playtime.” Dexter explains how Ka$h performs searches as guests pass by during the security screening. “He can do that all day. As the guests pass by us, he’s basically searching the people looking for ‘the toy’, and that’s his reward toy. It’s kind of like his paycheck.”

Dexter shares the same love for the Disneyland Resort as his reliable canine companion. “I’m passionate about everything I did with this team. That’s why I became the lead and also the trainer for the team. It’s a challenge for me but I love that… Find some ways on how to make our resort, and our cast members, a safer environment.”

Shannon and Gus Gus in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle
Shannon and Gus Gus (Labrador retriever)

Shannon worked security in her previous job, and then built on that career when she joined the Disneyland Resort, taking on roles such as security role host/hostess, motor officer, hotel officer, and bike patrol. When there was an opening for the K9 unit, she had friends telling her to apply for the role due to her love for dogs and animals. After speaking with other members of the K9 team, including Dexter, she applied to the role. A couple weeks after the posting, she got the job, and in her own words, has “been happy ever since.”

“Gus Gus and I have been together for about seven years,” says Shannon, referring to her Yellow Lab canine. “I’m happy that I get to work with a dog. Someone that doesn’t give me a hard time. It seems like he looks up to me; we’re learning something new every day. I get to learn something different from him, from either his alert or his personality characteristics or whatnot. I just enjoy working with a dog, having that partner and that partnership with someone else that’s not a person, but four legs.”

Although she found her perfect job as a dog lover, she also understands that working with Gus Gus isn’t just fun and games – it’s serious work. “It’s not just walking your dog… It’s training, it’s building that bond with your dog. It’s that yearly certification that you’ve got to pass in order to stay on the K9 team and keep your partner. There’s a lot more than just walking that dog and going out to calls that you get throughout the day.”

Regardless, Gus Gus knows how to keep the job playful and interesting. “He loves guests,” Shannon says. “Guests come in, and he would just go up to them. He just has a sensitive soul. He’s the sweetest dog that I’ve probably had, and he’s a loving little guy.”

When talking about Gus Gus’s favorite part about being a cast member, she further emphasizes his happy attitude with guests, but also his desire for a reward after a hard day’s work. “He absolutely loves the guest interaction. Being pet by a few people here and there. But he enjoys the work, he enjoys to get his ‘toy’… being able to get that toy at the end of his shift, or during training, or when he finds something coming into the resort. All these dogs work hard to go for that ‘paycheck’ so to say.”

After asking Shannon about her favorite part about her job, she expressed the same sentiment as Gus Gus about our guests. “The guest interaction, and working with a dog that you end up loving. You take care of him, he takes care of you,” Shannon states. “At the end of the day, making sure that the guests are safe. The cast members are safe. Making sure that you can come in, do your job to the fullest, and go home knowing that you did what you had to do in order to keep the resort safe.”