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Extensive training begins for K-9 officers - KOAM TV 7

Extensive training begins for K-9 officers

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A national law enforcement workshop kicked off Tuesday in Jasper, Missouri but this one trains officers with four legs.

The fourth annual week-long American Working Dog Council Workshop drew in 12 officers and their K-9's from Jasper and Newton counties, and from across the country.

These dogs are already officers, but this type of training enhances their ability to target criminals on the job.  While this type of certification is not required for K-9 officers, it is recommended.

"If one of these handler's gets called into court and they're questioning the dogs ability to alert on a car in a car stop, one of the things they're going to subpoena is they're going to subpoena their training records, to show that you've been doing the training, but they're also going to say 'well, have you been certified?'" says Tom Crossley, the Vice President of the American Working Dog Council.  "We're working on explosives detection.  That's obviously real important.  We're working on narcotics detection, locker searches - we're constantly called to do locker searches for school districts."

K-9's were trained to detect drugs in school lockers, and bombs and explosives with the use of decoys.  They were also taught to find a suspect on the run by tracking a human scent.  Some dogs catch on more quickly than others but K-9 officers say the key behind the training is to turn each situation into a game.

"They got play toys, tennis balls, tugs, bite sleeves and stuff like that," says Collins.  "The more you give them something to do and reward them for doing it right, that's what just makes them set even higher, just a higher pace and drive - we call it drive - but the higher the drive is, it ain't too much of nothing they can't teach them to do."

These K-9's are trained in real life situations, and in real life things can go wrong.  So the dogs are also taught how to sniff through everyday obstacles.

"We ran into deer scent, versus tracking over the human scent, just working them through it, continuously praising them for it when he does get it right," says Archie Collins, a K-9 trainer from Memphis, Tennessee.

"Basically, when that dog crosses it and show any interest in that deer scent, we can correct him off that and put him back on the odor we want him to learn and continue on, and he basically learns 'I'm supposed to chase this odor, not that one,'" says Crossley.

It's a challenge to train an animal to assist in such serious work.  But for the K-9's it's more about fun and games.

"It's really difficult, you have to learn with dogs - with any animal, it's repetition," Crossley says.  "Everything with dogs is play and praise."

This workshop is taking place at Jasper High School and will last through June 1.

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