K-9 conference draws in 60 teams from across Idaho

POCATELLO — The Idaho Police Canine Association’s conference drew in approximately 60 K-9 teams from all across the state to train in both classroom instruction and on-the-job scenarios.

Held from May 7 to 11 and hosted by the Pocatello police K-9 team, these handlers and their canine companions trained at Idaho State University’s Turner Hall and South Complex in narcotics and bomb detection, tracking, apprehension and more.

“What we try and do is present scenarios our officers have seen throughout the state,” Morgan Case of Ada County’s Sherriff Office and one of the conference’s instructors said Tuesday morning. “Dogs, if they are not exposed to a scenario or event, will not react well. This gives dogs those experiences. This is what we try to focus on.”

The dogs, many of them provided by the company Right Hand K-9 in Ogden, Utah, are trained at an early age to become work companions to law enforcement, Fish and Game officers and others.

“They make our jobs much safer,” Case said. “We have our families, and we want to go home safely. But our goal in law enforcement is not to hurt people. That’s not what we do. (In apprehension), we train the dog to grab and hold on. Not injure.”

One of the scenarios that the teams trained through involved long-line and apprehension training. On the first floor of Turner Hall, K-9 teams acted on a scenario in which they had to place their dog on a long line and command them to apprehend an armed, potentially aggressive man.

K-9 Handler Patrick Crapo and his Belgian Malinois, Mako, ran through the scenario early Tuesday. He explained that trainings such as these provide many benefits to both dog and handler.

“We get new experiences by setting up scenarios in places our dog hasn’t been,” he said. “This helps with problem-solving skills and gives us new challenges and it gives us new ideas on how to work with the dogs.”

Mako is Crapo’s first K-9, and he takes him home once the day’s work is done.

“These dogs are a little-hard headed and they don’t like being told what to do,” he said. “So even when I’m at home, there’s a lot to still work on such as obedience training.”

In the South Complexes, K-9 teams trained on sniffing for narcotics and other scents. In one scenario, K-9 Handler Chris Reece’s European Labrador, Marta, sought to sniff out narcotics and in the process walked by and ignored a goose head, goose jerky and a box of donuts planted to distract the dogs.

In Fish and Game conservation officer Jim Stirling’s scenario, his black Labrador, Pepper, sniffed through dorm rooms with no target scents placed in the area.

“This was to train him and verifying that he was not lying,” Stirling said.

The variety of these scenarios was designed to present the K-9 team with challenges and variables seen in daily life.

“All scenarios are layered and complicated,” Pocatello police Corp. Akilah Lacey said, “but the goal is to have the dog and the handler win at the end of the day.”

Lacey said the event has been fruitful in part because of help from the community.

“There’s been a lot of local businesses who’ve donated and given their time in efforts to help us be successful,” he said. “It’s a great testament to our city about how helpful they’ve been.”

On Thursday, the public is invited to attend the annual police K-9 competition held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at ISU’s Davis Field. K-9 teams will compete in apprehension, agility and scent-detection.