Police K9 Training Essential To Keep Animals Sharp For Finding Drugs, Catching Suspects

UPDATED: Friday May 9, 2014 6:53 PM

“Police department K9! Anybody out there - sound off now!” yells Capt. Brian Carter of the Columbus police K9 unit.

It's the battle cry for a police dog to get to work.

In this exercise, Rasta, a 7-year old Belgium Malinois, is on the hunt for a burglar inside a vacant school.

With only his nose to guide him, police say Rasta can do the work of multiple officers in half the time. It took Rasta just over a minute to sniff out the bad guy. His bark tells his handler what he's found.

“Whose ever in there sound off, or I'll send my dog inside that cage!" yells Carter.

The noses on the K9s are just part of their weaponry. They also pack a powerful bite.

In the case of a fleeing felon, officers won't hesitate to tell the dog to attack. But, it's a command police say they rarely have to use.

“There's something psychological about being challenged by an animal. They just throw their arms in the air and give up,” says Sgt. Mark Cartwright of the K9 Unit.

The dog is trained to bite and hold, until its handler gives him the command to release.

The dogs would be useless if they were not credible. That's why officers say this training is critical, so the evidence on the people they apprehend or the drugs they find can hold up in court.

“If your dog is not alerting when he should be or alerting when he shouldn't be, then your dog's credibility is going to take a nose dive and that could be critical for court presentations," says Cartwright.

The Columbus Division of Police has nine police dogs.

Lucky is a 2-year-old German Sheppard with a nose for drugs. In one training exercise, he's looking for drugs hidden in a school locker.

When he gets a hit, he scratches to let his handler know what he's found.

By giving police probable cause to search, officers say K9 cops are an invaluable resource - not only to find drugs and criminals on the run - but also to discover evidence to help solve cases.

Police say their four legged partners who bring a fearless approach to their work, along with their powerful sense of smell.

The Columbus Division of Police K9 Unit started in 1992 it relies on Columbus city schools and other property managers to use their buildings for training.

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