K9 has his day after completing drug-detection course
07/15/2010
Herald-Mail

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WASHINGTON COUNTY — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office will pay its newest deputy with belly scratches and chew toys.

Reiser, a 20-month old German Shepherd, is ready to hit the streets with his handler, Deputy Jason Litten, after the pair graduated Thursday from the Maryland Division of Correction’s drug-detection course.

“It has been one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done,” Litten said. “He’s a real good dog.”

Litten and Reiser were among six dogs and handlers from law enforcement agencies across the state who graduated from the 10-week course, which was held at Division of Correction K9 Headquarters south of Hagerstown. A seventh dog and his handler graduated from a separate, 14-week patrol course.

Lt. Mark Flynn of the Division of Correction’s K9 training unit said each candidate starts the course with two dogs in case one doesn’t “cut the mustard.” The highest performing of the dogs graduates with the handler, he said. If the other dog finishes the training with respectable marks, it advances to the next course to train with a different candidate.

He said Division of Correction employees are given a chance to adopt the dogs who wash out.

The Division of Correction breeds dogs for K9 training, Flynn said, and recruits from rescues and shelters. In the latter case, instructors look for dogs who like to run and stay active.

“That’s the ideal candidate for us,” Flynn said. “They have that prey drive and like to have fun.”

Flynn said the officers who participate in the program leave their homes and stay in a house on Division of Correction property south of Hagerstown. After graduation, the handlers and dogs go back to their respective agencies.

Litten said Reiser stayed with his family in their home before the drug-detection course and will live there from now on. The 85-pound dog already has taken a liking to his children.

“He’s constantly walking around,” Litten said. “He checks the doors. He’s alert all the time.”

Sgt. James Grimm, K9 supervisor for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said the department has five K9s and five handlers. Each dog costs about $5,000, he said. The sheriff’s office buys them with a guarantee that the dog will be replaced if it can’t be trained or isn’t healthy.

“We’ve seen a lot of success in drug seizures and criminal apprehensions,” Grimm said. “The important part is getting those guys out there and hitting the streets.”