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Yuma devil dogs teach local police K9s new tricks

By Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison | | March 18, 2010

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Military police dog handlers here continued their ongoing collaboration with the Cocopah Police Department's first canine unit by training the dogs to sniff out narcotics and apprehend suspects in a Yuma warehouse, March 11, 2010.

While station's K9 Marines usually support outside establishments such as Border Patrol and other police departments if needed, this is the first time the MPs here involved itself with the creation of a canine unit.

The police department has trained its dogs with the Marines for the past four months, after noting the advantages of having a canine unit when Marines were brought in due to a bomb scare at the Cocopah Casino in August 2009.

"We're glad to have these resources to tap into," said Chad Conley, CPD dog handler. "The Marine base has been an irreplaceable asset to our program."

The CPD currently has two dogs and two handlers. One pair searches for explosives and the other looks for drugs. Both teams spend time training under the thorough tutelage of Marine military dog handlers, eight hours a week.

Normally, the CPD bring their dogs to the station to train. Using the warehouse was meant to adapt the dogs to strange settings and keep training from becoming stagnant.

During the training, the dogs searched and located objects carrying the scent of substances such as marijuana and heroin, and also practiced subduing aggressors, who wore thick bite-resistant suits.

The CPD officers were not the only ones to benefit from the training; the Marines also used the training to tighten an already close bond with their own canines.

"I love my dog," said Cpl. Marlon Madison, chief trainer for station military dog handlers. "That dog is genuinely going to save your life and others' lives."

The Marines work with their dogs more than 40 hours per week, brushing up on apprehension training, scent detection and instilling obedience.

"If you don't have obedience, you have nothing," said Madison. "Their lives are in our hands, and our lives in their hands. They're just like Marines."

A dog is usually matched with a handler corresponding to its own personality, though sometimes handlers will be switched around to better suit the relationship, said Lance Cpl. Bret Reynolds, station military dog handler.

The bond between dog and devil dog was apparent throughout the training, as members of the CPD learned.

"If it wasn't for the Marine unit, we wouldn't be where we are," said Jerry Ramos, CPD captain and operations commander. "This gives us an opportunity to see the others' techniques and tactics."

The CPD will collaborate with the Marines indefinitely until the policemen feel their dogs are up to par on training.
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