Beyond the Badge: Meet Pulaski County K-9 Loki
PULASKI COUNTY, Ind. --- ABC57 continues our newest original series ‘Beyond the Badge’, giving Michiana an inside look at local law enforcement and the job they do every day.
The ‘Beyond the Badge’ team is bringing Michiana back to Pulaski County, diving deeper into what it takes be a K-9 handler and the training that goes along with it.
“My canine partner, his name is Loki. He is a Dutch shepherd. He's from Hungary originally. He's about five years old,” Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy and K-9 Handler Seth Barton said.
Seth has been working with Loki for four years.
“Being a K-9 handler is the best, most rewarding thing I have done yet in law enforcement,” he said.
If you have ever seen a K-9 working out on the street, you might think it is all pretty simple.
“When people see a police dog, they see the dog that's obedient,” Barton said. “The dog, that is a push button dog, the dog that's doing everything he's supposed to do.”
While obedience is a big part of the job, getting a dog to react this way is much more complicated.
“It is a job within a job. It takes a lot of time, energy and effort.”
Initial K-9 school is six weeks.
“We recertify once a year,” he explained.
The Beyond the Badge team followed Seth to the week-long K-9 Olympics for recertification at Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, IN. Vohne Liche Kennels is a full-service facility with a record of training military and service dogs for more than 5,000 law enforcement and government agencies.
“It's a game of balances, you have to work as a team, and you have to have a lot of patience.”
On top of that, you must have a strong relationship.
“Every time I'm at work, that dog has a potential to be used to find the odor that he's trying to find or to track a suspect or missing child, or to help keep us safe on warrant service. That's where he comes into play, to go in and keep us safe and go in first.”
Training does not stop there. It is highly suggested handlers have up to 16 hours of training a month.
“16 hours is hard to hit for functional training with your daily life and everything, if that's not your only job within your department. But it's also easy to hit because you're doing training nonstop, you're doing it consistently.”
When you take the obedience and repetition out on the street side of things, it is important to keep up training.
“That's where it's on us to make sure we're training and continuing the training to make sure that there are no false positives or anything like that.”
It takes about 15-20 seconds to run Loki around a car for what is called a free air sniff.
“When Loki alerts, he catches odor, starts investigating and he'll work it back and forth until he finds the strongest source of odor and then he stares at it. It might be a marijuana case today. And that's what my dog is hitting on. I want to know what that reason is on the training side of the dog. Because maybe marijuana today but tomorrow, it's methamphetamine or heroin. And it's important to understand your dog's behavior and why your canine partner is doing what he's doing.”
Beyond all the training and learning, Seth said is a lot of trust, partnership and bonding.