The Sheriff's Office dog handlers are selected through a competitive process; human candidates must have at least five years' experience as a police officer.
Once chosen, the dog and handler attend a six-week basic handler's school. In this school, the former sport dogs and their handlers are taught how to deploy for and find suspects safely -- through exercises that include daily obedience, drive-building, problem-solving and scenario-based activities exposing the dogs to new and difficult situations. Handlers also receive one week of classroom instruction on canine drives, canine first aid, legal guidelines, tactics and deployment strategies.
Once the team returns to service in Clackamas County, they spend their time training, responding to calls, searching for suspects and helping out our patrol division and outside agencies with calls for service.
When are K9 teams needed? The dogs are mostly used for their extraordinary sense of smell -- although their keen hearing and ability to detect movement help with captures. K9 teams respond to the following incidents:
- When we're pursuing suspects hiding from deputies;
- During article, evidence or narcotics searches;
- During SWAT calls;
- While responding to residential or business alarms;
- During premise checks;
- During high-risk traffic stops or pursuits.
The K9 Unit also spends many hours on public demonstrations at schools, fairs, and community events. Two of our former dogs, Mik and Nero, are featured in their own series of comic books.