K-9s learn to sniff out drugs more effectively - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

K-9s learn to sniff out drugs more effectively

LAMAR, SC (WMBF) - Drug-sniffing dogs from around the Pee Dee are going back to school to learn how to increase their ability to find drugs in the region.

"The feedback that we get is they see an increase in finds and reliability," said Mel English, co-owner of Battle Born K9, who is teaching the training. "They see and feel a confidence about them and their dog team they say they haven't felt before."

The Darlington County Sheriff's Office is hosting training this week for its own officers as well as officers from the Florence Police Department, Florence County Sheriff's Office, Pageland Police Department and SLED.

Battle Born K9's training involves classroom education on the science behind a dog's sense of smell as well as practice for the dogs and handlers in real-life scenarios. However, the company doesn't use actual drugs for the training.

"It's made too simple. Kind of like taking you back to first grade math. You probably do all that," English said. "But what we do is we teach the dog to do advanced math."

Battle Born K9 instructors hide pieces of paper and paper clips that have the scent of narcotics on them. The paper can be folded up to make the radius of scent around it as small as possible.

"We don't see our local drug dealers going to the extreme that they go to here during training, so if the dogs can do it in training, they'll certainly be able to do it on the road," Darlington County Sheriff Wayne Byrd said.

Battle Born K9 also teaches the dogs to sniff with their mouths closed. When their mouths are open, it can reduce their sense of smell up to 80%, English said.

The other aspect of training is teaching the dogs to search without cues from their handlers. A dog's signal gives officers the legal right to search.

"That cueing can be called into question in court and it's right to call that into question, so what we want to do is get the handler out of the picture, make the dog learn to be confident, reliable and self-sustaining," English said.

The training lasts a week then it is up to the handlers to continue using the techniques with their dogs. Handlers are required to do four hours of drug-related training each week with every dog.

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