K-9 officers from across U.S. practice patrol searches in Sevier County

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – K-9 handler teams all the way from Canada to Texas were in East Tennessee this week, training and practicing their specialties.

This is the first time the International Police Working Dog Association visited Sevierville. About 90 teams came to take part. Teams practiced everything from aggression control to narcotics and bomb searches. For the K-9s, searching is almost like a game.

“We use the toy when we begin training and the dog starts looking for the toy. We’ll hide it and then we progress, we add odors to the toy so the dog begins to association certain odors with the toy and getting the reward of playing with it,” said Cpl. Albert Biggs with the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.

In one exercise, K-9 Officer Hekko was practicing how to protect his handler, Deputy Tim Herzog as he patted down a suspect. Hekko is trained to rest and attack on command.

“Being able to trust that dog and rely on that dog is the biggest part of bonding and understanding the dog, all that comes from you training. The more training you do, the better team that you’re going to be,” said Cpl. Heather Napieralski with the Fayetteville Police Department.

A K-9’s life is spent training. They’re required to train 16 hours a month. When searching for drugs or bombs, the dogs are taught to sit when they find something suspicious.

“They have a tremendous sense of smell,” said Cpl. Biggs.

The K-9s are also asked to do a lot as an officer.

“We rely heavily on them during traffic stops to check vehicles that we suspect for narcotics. We do a lot of drug seizures, if we have to go and serve a warrant we usually send a dog with them,” added Biggs.

Handlers tell us practicing outside of their region also makes the team stronger.

“They’re family members to us,” said Cpl. Napieralski.

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