ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — A K9 officer was recently in the news for his involvement during the raid that killed ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In our region, K9s and their handlers train together twice a month, doing both drug and patrol specific drills.
Some K9s are trained to sniff out five different types of drugs. Others can find electronics, like memory sticks and cell phones. Training days, like the one they had on Friday, help the dogs and their handlers be better prepared when they’re called out for a search.
“If we could see scent, it would be so much easier, but you know, trusting your dog and the dog says it’s in scent, and being able to read your dog and know that it’s in scent,” Eric Leaman, Deputy Sheriff for Union County, said.
During the drug search training, the K9s and their handlers don’t know where the items are hidden. The dogs are guided high and low, making sure they’re being thorough and don’t miss an important find.
“It’s important to continue to train with your dog,” Alex Vazquez, Patrolman for the Logan Township Police Department, said.
Why? Officers said without practice, these K9s’ skills will diminish over time, just like a human’s does.
“We do this on our off time also. It’s not like we just do it here, so the more you do it, just like anything else. The more you do it, the more practice, the better you get,” Vazquez said.
Different breeds of dogs are used as K9s around our region, such as German Shepherds, Spaniels, and Yellow Labs.
And just like any other dog, when they follow commands, and do what they’re trained to do, they get rewarded.
But unlike the typical pup, these dogs have a duty: to serve and protect their community.
“They’re police officers, they have badges just like we do,” Vazquez said.
If you see a K9 and their handlers out and about, officers recommend you give the dog space and make sure to always ask permission if you want to pet the dog.