HARVEYS LAKE, Pa. — Sea legs for a dog are not part of the tool kit found inside a police K-9's cruiser. They are something that has to be earned.
These teams of K-9s and their handlers must be prepared for any situation they may come across.
"We say you don't want the first time a dog experiences something to be during a deployment. So, we try and expose the dogs to everything we can think of," said Joe Homza, a K-9 handler and trainer.
"It's a fun thing for them to do. Will they ever do it? Potentially. If they work around water, potentially. You'll see this can be stressful for some dogs, and that's what we're going for—to just be neutral in every environment," Dan Eliasen said.
Homza is an officer and K-9 handler with the Wilkes-Barre Police Department. He and Eliasen are also trainers with the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.
"We provide in-service training up to 16 hours a month, which is detection and then patrol," Homza said.
For this training session, teams from six different law enforcement agencies from Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties are going out on the water and getting in.
"We're going to get them out on the water, get them used to the boat, you know, being on the water, and then ultimately, jumping from the boat into the water to do some apprehension training," Homza said.
The training includes a jump from the boat to stop a pretend perp, then going to the beach for some detection and article-search training before another apprehension from the beach back in the water.
The officers say it's rare that these dogs will need to actually do something like this, but this training is more than just environmental and skill building.
"A team building and confidence building exercise, same reason. Corporate businesses would send sales teams to obstacle courses, right? You're taking people out of their element, exposing them to something that's going to require them to work as a team. So that's really what we're what we're looking to get out of this."
So that when the stakes are high, there is not only experience behind these teams but trust too.
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