MARSHALL, Mich. — The Fairgrounds in Marshall were not the average dog park this week. The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office turned it into a training ground for police dogs.
“We’re here training with guys from the Netherlands,” said Kelly Boyer, K9 handler with Kalamazoo Public Safety. “Working on aggression work, learning who to catch dogs in a decoy suit and different techniques and stuff that help dogs become accustomed to things on the street.”
Boyer said she’s been working with her dog for four years and considers it to be a dream come true. She was among 21 other pairs of police dogs and K9 handlers from around West Michigan who participated in the three day event. Some of the handlers donned decoy suits and worked with the dogs on proper bite techniques and attack and release commands.
“We’re working on decoy training and high pressure scenario based training for canines,” said organizer and Officer Guy Picketts Jr. “It teaches the dog where to take the suspect down and teaches the dog proper grip techniques to hang on so there's less injury potentially to the dog and the suspect.”
Picketts Jr. said the sheriff’s office flew in two dog instructors from the Netherlands — one who works with 29 police dogs on a daily basis — to train local police and their dogs on how to best to track down suspects. The instructors put the dogs and their handlers on top of cars, through dark rooms and in scenarios where they’d hear loud noises. They even had a decoy in the water and trained dogs on how to get him.
“It’s to teach the dog to overcome that obstacle, the water, where he loses touch with his feet on the ground because he’s in deep waters swimming,” said Picketts Jr. “It’s confidence for both the handler in the dog.”
Confidence is key said Pickett. It takes courage to fight crime everyday and this training is helping them attain that skill.
“It teaches them how to do the work properly,” said Picketts Jr. “You can actually build confidence in the dog with proper movements from the decoy. [It’s] very important for the decoys to know what they’re doing too. But it’s overall it’s kind of like confidence for both the dog and the decoy."