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Stark County Sheriff's Office conduct K9 water apprehension training

As the West River Community Center turned off all of its pool chemicals for the last swim of the year, Dickinson Parks and Recreation Department hosted its annual Pooch Pool Party for all dogs in the community. Before the widely popular community event, the Stark County Sheriff's Office conducted K-9 water apprehension training.

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The Stark County Sheriff’s Office K9s conducted water apprehension training at the West River Community Center pool on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.
Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press
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K9 water apprehension training
Deputy Dave Klatt, Stark County Sheriff's Office, and his K9 partner Jerry Lee, prepare for water apprehension training at the West River Community Center's outdoor pool on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.
Photo courtesy of Stark County Sheriff's Office

DICKINSON — As the hot and sultry days of summer give way to Autumn's cooler temperatures, the West River Community Center continued its unique and well received annual tradition of turning off its pool chemicals for a final summer blowout aptly named, the "Pooch Pool Party."

Before the paws of all sizes made their way to the pool as part of the Dickinson Parks and Recreation's seventh iteration of the event, their four legged friends working for the Stark County Sheriff's Office took advantage of a novel training opportunity.

In 2015 Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee, then a K9 handler at the Dickinson Police Department, attended a four-day K9 training seminar in Kansas City, MO. It was at this seminar where he befriended two expert trainers.

Upon returning to Dickinson, the Dickinson Police Department invited the two trainers to conduct an annual Midwestern K9 Seminar. The training exposes K9s to various unusual scenarios that an officer and his four-legged partner may find themselves — from suspects on top of vehicles to water apprehension.

“As scenarios come along in real life, you try and adapt your training to include these types of scenarios. Just like any other form of training, the more you expose yourself to in training the better, and the same is true for our K9s,” Lee said. "Our first time training in the water it was very surprising how many dogs either wouldn't, or didn't want to, get in the water."

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Lee said that it was in this training in 2016 that he developed a curriculum, in coordination with the two trainers, to get K9s accustomed to apprehension in water environments. Lee recounted having little trouble getting his former partner, K-9 Gambit, accustomed to being in the water.

"Fortunately with Gambit, he had such a high drive and had no experience with bodies of water that he charged 100% and sunk like a stone," Lee said. "Gambit didn't know what water was and thought it was ground, but his drive was so high he continued with the engagement anyway."

Since 2016, area law enforcement have capitalized on an opportunity provided by the West River Community Center to conduct their annual K9 water apprehension training.

Lt. Eldon Mehrer said that the Sheriff's Office is grateful for the continued partnership they have with Dickinson Parks and Recreations and for allowing them to use the facilities at the West River Community Center.

"We're very grateful for them allowing us to do this. The things you do in training, you try to do them as realistically as possible just in case you encounter that real life... (Then) you know those K-9s are tools that we use and you want to make sure that your tools are going to function when you actually need them," Mehrer said. "... Our overall goal is make our communities across Stark County better places to live and work and to allow people to do the things that they enjoy. Having our officers prepared for things that they may come down the road is what we try to do when we train."

Stark County Sheriff's Office K9 water apprehension training
Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee assists in training a K9 at the West River Community Center's outdoor pool on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.
Photo courtesy of the Stark County Sheriff's Office

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