Detecting Drugs: K-9 Units Train For Duty

The population of drug sniffing dogs in La Crosse went from one to twenty four on Thursday. The United States Police Canine Association is in town, hosting a regional training seminar.

Houston County deputy sheriff Trace Erickson says when you're trying to find drugs with a dog, it's all about team work and cooperation.

"To build a team, to work together, the K-9 and the handler work as a team so that the handler can read the response of the dog on the illegal narcotics and just to prepare them for the certification."

Erickson says the dogs and the officers have to stay sharp to make sure they get the job done.

"We're going to make scenarios here that are as real to life as we can with car searches and hiding illegal narcotics."

La Crosse’s new drug dog Ralph was here with his handler Ryan Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald says the training gives him a chance to learn from other, more experienced K-9 officers.

"It gives me access to handlers in other areas so we can swap information, have him work with some other dogs, have him get used to that and other trainers in the area," says Fitzgerald.

He says the training is fun and makes him feel like he and Ralph are better prepared to do their job.

"I'd say the car searches today seeing him go from one car which we were working he winded one right next to it and then went to that one."

Erickson says the teams are made up of some of the best officers in their respective departments who need to be recertified every two years.

"The majority of guys if you ask them they've had a passion to run a K-9. It's a specialized unit that's usually given to officers as a promotional situation and administration has handed them the privilege to run a K-9 and they take it as a privilege and an honor."

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