BEDFORD, Ind. — More than 100 old and new police dogs are learning new tricks at this week’s American Police Canine Association Conference in Lawrence County.

Mike Johnson, canine supervisor of the Bedford Police Department and president of APCA, said police dogs and their handlers from various parts of United States are receiving training in a lot of different areas this week at Murray Park, the Lawrence County Recreation Park and other places. Some of the training sessions include aggression control, vehicle pursuit, tracking and numerous other areas.

“We’re offering a lot more tactical training than we did in the past,” Johnson said. “We’re using helicopters, SWAT teams more … and doing simultaneous training with canine units.”

Johnson said Bedford is known for having an elite police dog unit, and the training offered is something folks don’t generally see in other places.

Bill Poe, a captain with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department, brought his dog Echo to aggression control training at Murray Forest Park Tuesday. He said she has a problem with keeping a sustained bite in one area, so he brought her to the session with hopes she will improve.

“We want to keep her engaged in a full bite,” Poe said. “She has no problem biting, but she wants to transfer from an arm to a leg. (Today’s training) has already been fixing that. … But the master trainer has been there and done that, so that’s good for us.”

Bob Anderson, a retired lieutenant of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and the trainer for Tuesday’s aggression control session, said the goal of the workshop is to provide knowledge and education to the handlers and their dogs. Sometimes the dog have a problem, sometimes the handlers have a problem and sometimes it’s a combination of both.

Dogs also must possess certain behaviors and characteristics to join a police force, he said.

“They have to have certain traits or they can’t cut it,” Anderson said. “It’s like if you and I tried to join the NFL, we don’t have what it takes, so we aren’t going to cut it. … The dog has to be a confident dog. And he certainly has to have the right drive to hunt. He has to do some investigative behavior because he’s the best detective in the department. … We have to find people, drugs, arson, bombs, evidence, the whole nine yards. When you talk about a police dog, a lot of people think about biting. You know, statistically, that’s 2 percent of what they do.”

Another noticeable trait can be a police dog’s protective nature, especially with Echo, Poe said.

“Last year, she had an issue of protecting me, as opposed to attacking,” Poe said. “Now, if you come within 6 feet of me, she’ll bite you . and I don’t have a problem with that because she’s here to protect me. To me, that’s a good trait. The bad part about that is most kids like dogs. They’ll walk up and think it’s a puppy. … That’s why she wears a muzzle when we take her to shows.”

The dogs at the conference range from rookie dogs on the police force to seasoned ones. In addition to the training, the conference also offers certifications for their dogs and handlers.

And this year’s attendees were loving the conference, Johnson said.

“With this conference, it just offers a different perspective,” Johnson said. “It sharpens officers’ street skills and the utilization of dogs. It also keeps them current on case law.”

Johnson said this is the first time Bedford has held the conference since 2009, but it looks like the conference will return again next year.

“It’s a good experience,” Johnson said. “This is our eighth conference … most cities are lucky to just get one.”

The conference concluded Thursday.

Source: The (Bloomington) Herald Times,

Information from: The Herald Times,

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Bloomington) Herald Times.