K-9 teams certify, county to host fall trials

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Police canine units and their handlers spent part of last week honing their skills and maintaining the certification that allows them to serve the public as law enforcement officers.
   At the United States Police Canine Association Patrol Dog Trials held in Johnson City last week, canine teams from across the southeast region engaged in some friendly competition which led to one local pair bringing home a trophy and two medals.
   Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Sarah Ryan and her partner K-9 Sgt. Kabor took eighth place in the overall competition and brought home two second place medals -- one for agility and one for obedience.
   "The goal of each team is every year to improve itself," Ryan said. "I think this was our best year."
   Ryan and Kabor certify twice a year with the USPCA, once in the spring for their work as a patrol canine team and once in the fall for their work as a detector canine team. The two have been working together for approximately four years now, Ryan said.
   As part of the patrol dog certification, the USPCA mandates that the dogs and handlers perform to satisfaction in obedience, agility, article search, suspect search and apprehension tests.
   One of the more enjoyable parts of actual competition for Ryan is what is called the suspect box search. "It's six boxes and a suspect is hiding in one of them," she said. "The dog is required to find the suspect."
   The USPCA also places a strong emphasis on apprehension work, focusing both on the dog's ability to apprehend a subject as well as the dog's obedience to calls from the handler to release the subject.
   "Once the dog apprehends the decoy you have to call him back to sit beside you."
   Teams competing in the patrol dog trials also undergo training in apprehending a suspect during gunfire in order to see how the dogs respond during gunfire situations, Ryan said. During that trial, the suspect fires six rounds, the dog is ordered to apprehend the suspect and once the suspect has been apprehended, the dog is called off.
   Another part of the apprehension training is to test the dogs' ability to defend his or her handler. "The dog apprehends the decoy and then releases them. Then the decoy assaults the handler and the dog re-engages the decoy for handler protection," Ryan said.
   For Ryan, the most enjoyable part of the USPCA dog trials is "the camaraderie of the other K-9 officers that you do not normally get to train with," she said.
   Also at the USPCA dog trials held in Johnson City, it was announced that the Detector Dog Trials will be held in Carter County in September. In the Detector Dog Trials, detector dogs of all types come to certify for their specific specialties.
   There are many types of detector dogs. Kabor is a narcotics detection dog, but canine units are also trained in detecting arson, explosives and cadavers.
   In the detector dog certification, canine teams are timed in the exercises and must score a certain percentage on the test in order to maintain certification. The scoring percentage is determined by the type of detection the dog is trained to carry out.