Police dogs from around the country come to Perry to train

Police dogs from around the country come to Perry to train

wcrenshaw@macon.comNovember 15, 2012 

PERRY -- This week would have been a bad time for anyone to try to escape from the Houston County jail.

That’s because just a few miles away, at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, 73 police dog teams from around the country were in training.

“We would catch him in a flash,” said Dooly County sheriff’s Lt. Marsha Peavy, a certified dog trainer.

The teams, each of which consists of a trainer and a dog, were at the fairgrounds for the third annual South Georgia K-9 Training and Certification Workshop, organized by the sheriff’s departments of Dooly and Houston counties. The cost is paid for by fees.

Peavy said she started having a K-9 workshop in 1993, but it grew so big she eventually joined with Houston County to have it at the fairgrounds.

Most of the dogs at the workshop are drug or tracking dogs, and many are both. Some are bomb-sniffing dogs, and there was even an alcohol-sniffing dog.

Detective Ian Stroud, of the North Slope Borough Police Department in Alaska, brought his dog down to be certified. Due to the severe alcohol problems among native populations in Alaska, towns have the option of banning it, and North Slope Borough is one of those.

“I probably have the only alcohol-sniffing dog here,” he said.

The teams practiced a wide range of scenarios, including narcotics searches on traffic stops and in buildings, searches for missing persons and escapees, and using a helicopter. The helicopter, provided by the Georgia State Patrol, wasn’t so much for training the dogs, but to simply make sure dogs are comfortable with getting on one if the need ever arises.

The Houston County Sheriff’s Department used its simulator as part of the training. It’s normally used for a wide variety of training, but in this case it gave dog handlers a chance to practice dealing with dangerous situations while trying to control their dog.

Cochran police officer Joshua Kester stood in front of the simulator’s large screen while holding his dog, Argo. Kester was told only that he had been called to trouble at a school, and when the image popped up he quickly realized he was in one of the scariest situations an officer could face.

Inside the school, panicked students were running out of a door. The point-of-view camera went through the door and up the stairs where an armed gunman was coming down. By this time, all the noise had Argo agitated and moving around, and Kester had to control him while pulling out a gun with laser bullets that register on the screen. He dropped the gunman and kept going up the stairs where there was another gunman he had to shoot.

Although it was later determined the lights in the room were too bright for the bullets to register on the screen, in two subsequent scenarios Kester hit the suspects every time while shooting with only one hand and controlling Argo with the other.

Kester said afterward it was a good experience because he had never had a chance to practice controlling his dog while dealing with a dangerous situation.

Dog handlers said they like the workshop because it has top trainers, including from the Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security and the Navy SEALs. It also gives them a chance to talk with other dog handlers.

“Everybody’s got different ways of doing things,” said Sgt. Kevin Griffith, of Sylvester, who came with his dog, Bieko.

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