K-9 handler becomes certified trainer

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

GOOD DOG: Alik, one of the sheriff department's K-9 officers, has retired for health reasons. He will live with his former handler, Cpl. Ashley Lambert and his family.  Photo by Alexandra Hedrick

GOOD DOG: Standing with his handler Cpl. Ashley Lamber, Alik and another sheriff department’s K-9 officer retired earlier this year. Newly certified K-9 trainer Cpl. Bryan Anthony will train the two new K-9s once the sheriff department receives them.
Photo by Alexandra Hedrick

The Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department now has a certified director of the department’s K-9 unit.

Cpl. Bryan Anthony recently completed management and training courses to become a certified K-9 unit instructor. Anthony is now certified to train the department’s K-9s and their handlers and manage a K-9 unit, said Chief Deputy Shane Tucker.

Tucker said before Anthony’s training, the department had to hire outside instructors to train the handlers and the new K-9s, as well as work with the K-9s throughout their service with the department.

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Anthony completed two training courses, one in Jacksonville, Fla. on the management of a K-9 unit and the other in Forrest County on how to manage dogs and solve problems that come up.

Anthony said Matt Adams, who has trained the department’s dogs and handlers since the unit began, taught the Legends K-9 course in Forrest County.

“Because of his proven ability, we were even more pleased that that’s where Bryan was able to get his certification from,” Tucker said.

Legends K-9 involved learning about the psychology of the dog, what drives the dog and how to deal with the problems that may arise as a trainer, Anthony said.

He also worked with an 18-month-old Labrador retriever to get practical experience. Anthony said he trained the dog in obedience and narcotics detection.

Anthony said the training allowed him to transition from being a K-9 handler to being a K-9 trainer.

“It took me out from being the driver of the vehicle to being the mechanic of the vehicle,” Anthony said.

He also completed a week of decoy training, which helped him understand that the different ways a trainer or handler reacts to the dog will make the dog do different things, Anthony said.

“We talk about the dog being an awesome tool and it is a wonderful tool, but the dog is also an individual,” Anthony said. “You have to encounter the dog as an individual because it’s a living breathing thinking tool.”

Anthony said K-9 units have evolved over time and dogs are now used for more than just for tracking missing individuals and drugs.

“It’s all about the drive and how you make the drive work for you,” Anthony said.

He said he hopes to make the sheriff’s department’s K-9 unit the best it can be and use his training to help departments in other counties and across the state.

“It’s a brotherhood and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that everybody in the family is safe,” Anthony said.

Anthony will be an integral part of searching for and training two new dogs and handlers to replace two K-9s the department recently retired.

In the search for a new K-9, Anthony is looking for dogs that meet certain benchmarks and have a strong drive, which motivates the K-9s to do their job.

Anthony said there are 11-17 different drives they look for in a dog, but different drives make for different types of K-9s.

For example, a dog with a high play drive usually makes a good narcotics dog, Anthony said.

Along with a good K-9, Anthony will be looking for a good handler and work with them to find a training technique that works for both.

Another important part of Anthony’s training included first aid. He said he is now certified in K-9 CPR and rescue breathing and can perform first aid to help the K-9 on the scene until they can get to a veterinarian for treatment.

He said unlike with people, there are no ambulances to help treat a K-9 until they can see a doctor.

“We need to be able to do what we can for our partner on the scene,” Anthony said.