CRESTVIEW — Officers in the Crestview Police Department’s training room knew better than to get in the way of K9 Officers Cody and Sonic as they searched the department for “illegal narcotics.”
Police dogs can be intensely focused when they’re on duty.
Tuesday morning, Cody and Sonic knocked over furniture and swept a bulletin board off the wall in their quests, but both earned their rewards: chew toys.
The search was actually part of weekly training, which Crestview Police K9 officers sometimes do in tandem. The “narcotics” were, in fact, cotton balls scented in drug extracts that simulate the aroma of the real thing. Crestview’s K9s can differentiate between multiple types of illegal drug scents, and find them among numerous competing smells.
Sonic, under the command of his partner, Officer Jay Seals, found his target concealed in the wall behind an electrical socket plate, while Cody, led by his partner, Officer Shane Kriser, found his in a trash can. Another was detected in a hallway behind a bulletin board.
With their ability to differentiate and find thousands of scents among a plethora of other smells — including the pizzas one resident sent Crestview’s officers — Cody, Sonic and their colleague Hero each boasts a 100 percent accuracy rate.
During the training exercises, Officers Seals and Kriser kept records for each other as they directed their respective K9s. Unlike some dog owners who reward good behavior with snacks, Crestview Police K9 Unit officers reward their partners with the opportunity to play with a chew toy. The more complex a drug search or more obscure a scent, the longer the dog gets to play with the toy when he finds the narcotic — or, in this case, the training aid.
“We want to be as consistent in training as we are in the field,” Kriser said. “The dog can’t differentiate between what’s a training exercise and what’s the real thing. He has to be able to respond the same to all situations.”
Keeping on top of their game with weekly training keeps the dogs’ responses sharp, even though to the K9s it’s all a game with a chew toy as a reward.