Eleven K-9 officers with multiple local agencies underwent annual water and boat training yesterday on Lake Lanier.
The dogs and their handlers from the Gwinnett County Police Department, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, City of Duluth Police and City of Snellville Police participate in the training each year to prepare for a potential real-life situation.
Officials with Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services and the Department of Natural Resources also helped with the training on the lake.
As Aaron Carlyle with the Gwinnett Police Department explained, some of these situations can include pursuit of a suspect, a rescue mission or search for a missing person.
“We do train for situations that we might encounter and we would rather train this way and never have to use it but know that the dogs are capable of doing this,” said Carlyle.
During yesterday’s training, a K-9 and their handler would boat out to an island in Lake Lanier where a “suspect” would wait to simulate a manhunt. Once the suspect resisted arrest, the dog was expected to jump out of the boat, swim to shore and attack the suspect.
The handler and another officer would then join the dog on the shore to apprehend and arrest the suspect.
For some of the K-9 officers, it was their first time out on the water. For others, they had already gone through the training.
But regardless of their rookie or veteran status, Carlyle said that the handlers train the K-9s in a way so that they think the training as fun.
“All training to the dog has to be fun, the dog always wins in training,” said Carlyle. “We make it fun for the dog so the dog wants to go forth and do this type of training.”
Environmental factors also play a big role in the K-9s’ training, which is why a helicopter was circling over the training area the entire time.
“For a dog, environmentals are big so the boat, the water, the environment that they’re in, they need to push through that and do their job,” said Carlyle.
Carlyle explained that the K-9 officers with Gwinnett County train in the water annually and complete at least two full days of regular training each month.
But when the K-9s are not training, they are either on the job with their handler or relaxing with them at home.
“They’re our partner,” said Carlyle. “They know and we know that they’re there for us and we’re there for them.”
Sadly, the Gwinnett County K-9 unit lost one of their own just this month. Blue, a K-9 with the Gwinnett County Police Department, was shot and killed while pursuing a suspect.
While Carlyle admitted that losing a K-9 officer is tough, he commended Blue for fulfilling his duty to protect and serve.
“In Blue’s case, he did his job that day,” said Carlyle. “Officers went home safe to their families and that is what is important.”
You can watch a portion of the K-9 officer water training in the video above.