Multiple law enforcement agencies gather at Rifle for K9 training

Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Korthals hugs 4-year-old K9 Aren at Rifle on November 11.
Ray K. Erku / Independent Post

North Salt Lake City Police Officer Mike Boyle began issuing orders in German.

” Flat ! he ordered Tres, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, a mix of mounts wearing a healthy velor coat of tan fur. “platz”.

Tres, disciplined and submissive, immediately obeys the German dog’s command to “lie down,” resting in the rough asphalt parking lot surrounding the Garfield County Sheriff’s Annex building in Rifle.

Soon after, he was happily chomping on a rubber toy.

More than 20 dogs and several law enforcement agencies from Colorado and outside converged at Rifle last week for K9 training sessions hosted by the High Desert Police K9 Association.

The Grand Junction-based nonprofit deploys expert K9 handlers who provide enhanced training, certification, and support to all agencies with a K9 unit.

Garrett Duncan, a former Rifle Police officer and current Rio Blanco sheriff’s deputy who represents the association, said participating officers last week reviewed case law, earned National Police K9 certification Association, then good things – live training.

“We sign off, ‘Hey, the dog knows his smells, the dog knows how to search, how to sniff vehicles, how to sniff parts, the handler knows how to read his dog, check out the different behaviors that we’re looking for,’ he said. “And then, training-wise, we brought in additional help from Utah and across the state.”

Depending on their functions, K9s are an integral part of law enforcement, Duncan said, they are primarily deployed as a key location tool. These single-use dogs are used to help find contraband such as narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and missing persons.

Dual-wielding K9s, on the other hand, are also used to apprehend suspects using their jaws. Duncan, who used to train K9s with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, said he personally put on the protective dog suit and allowed a K9’s sharp teeth to sink in in his arm.

“It’s intimidating at first,” he said. “But if you do it the right way, it’s really fun.”


The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has four dogs on staff – Bull, Aren, Rex and Messi. Many of these K9s are bred and trained in Europe.

Two are assigned to the patrol division, one to investigations and another is a school resource officer.

Garfield County Emergency Operations Sgt. Chad Whiting, a 16-year veteran with the sheriff’s office who has been training dogs since 2018, said the week-long training provides a good refresher to highlight and translate case law into simple terms.

“In workouts like this, when we get a big group together, different trainers come to us and we have different ideas and we get people to look at our dogs in different ways,” he said. “They can bring things to us that maybe we don’t see because we all train together all the time.”

On Nov. 11, Craig Police Department officer Grant Laehr hangs a toy in front of 2-year-old German Shepherd Bane in Rifle. Bane is Slavic for glorious defender, Laehr said.
Ray K. Erku / Independent Post

Whiting said the big buzzword these days is “de-escalation”, so not only is it essential to analyze the ever-changing world of case law, but the monitoring and adjustments implemented by experts at High Desert help law enforcement stay nimble.

“Our managers have this de-escalation tool in their car all the time. Because, I can tell you, particularly in Garfield County, we’ve actually had little to eat since we restarted the program in 2005,” Whiting said. “And all of our other apprehensions were just because the dog was there. They gave up because the dog was there.


There is no substitute when it comes to mimicking the smell of narcotics.

That’s why part of last week’s workouts included substances like methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.

High Desert President Keith Sanders said part of the training includes setting up large amounts of real narcotics for the dogs to sniff. Because sometimes a K9’s scent is actually unable to detect larger busts.

“If someone brings a semi-load of illegal narcotics down the highway here, a lot of the dogs in the smaller agencies aren’t exposed to that,” he said. “And when a dog is first exposed to large hides like this, it can overwhelm them and they don’t react the way they’re supposed to.”

“We train them in vehicles, buildings, buried hides and tracking,” Sanders said.

The North Salt Lake City Police K9 Tres stand at attention in Rifle on Nov. 11.
Ray K. Erku / Independent Post

Sanders said a K9 had over 200 million smell cells in its nose. In comparison, humans have about 2 million of these nasal cells that pick up smell.

“If I put a burger in front of your Sonic face, what would you say to me?” Sanders said. “A dog breaks down buns, condiments, pickles, lettuce, onion, tomato and meat.”

When a dog is deployed for its other main tool – its sharp teeth – it is trained to make a criminal arrest.

Under these circumstances, suspects have the option to surrender first, Sanders said. The announcement is required by law.

If a suspect refuses to comply, a K9 is released. Usually it targets the hands or arms.

“We don’t target the head, neck or groin areas due to the fact that there are vitals there,” Sanders said.

The triceps are a favorable target for a dog. This way, a suspect is rendered with limited access to potentially harm the dog, Sanders said.

“We also train them to do the leg bites – big muscle mass – for pain compliance and motor dysfunction,” he said.

Dogs eligible for K9 duty can be expensive, according to estimates offered by high desert treasurer Geraldine Earthman.

Earthman, a veteran dog handler who keeps the tattoos of dogs she trained on her legs, said the costs start to rise once a dog is purchased and put into handler school. dogs.

“We’re looking at $15,000 to $18,000,” she said. “And then you have to equip a car with all the equipment. If you’re starting a dual-purpose team, it’s probably between $25,000 and $28,000, not including the car.

The costs, however, are worth it, Sanders said.

“A lot of your departments can’t afford a K9,” he said. “We all have tasers, we have guns, batons, pepper spray. But once a K9 is deployed, it can be recalled and cannot be used against the handler.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or [email protected].

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