WAITE PARK -- Dogs have always been man's best friend. To the officers of the Waite Park Police Department, that saying couldn't be more true.

Started nearly 30 years ago, the Waite Park Police Department's K-9 Unit Division currently has two police dogs. KATO is on street patrol. Dino is a drug dug. And together, they find their jobs more play than work.

"Working for him is fun, he wants to go out and work," says Officer Derek Whitehead, who's been a K-9 officer for eight years and is KATO's partner.

Dogs are assigned to a handler. From there, officer and dog spend even their off-duty days together. So while the dogs are on the staff, it's almost like inheriting a family pet for the officer.

Just like any dog, training is vital. For a dog on the Waite Park police force, hours of monthly training are required to make sure they are ready for live action.

"We do certification with them every year," says Officer Whitehead. "We train with the dog anywhere from 12-18 hours a month as much as we can."

That training can be anything from obedience to apprehension, finding evidence to building searches or tracking.

Of course, when people think about police dog training, they picture an officer wearing a "bite suit" -- a padded suit trainers wear to protect them from training bites. But there are other ways to simulate that suit like the use of a "barrel sleeve."

"This (barrel sleeve) is used for training purposes because it encompasses the whole arm,"  says Sgt Patrick Grossback. The sleeve covers from the hand up to the shoulder, just in case the dogs miss the target spot.

Grossback says the dogs are trained to do what they are ordered. But they are very social and get out into the community whenever they can.

"We do demos whenever we can to get our program out there so people can see we are here and available," says Officer Whitehead.

He also says they'll bring the dog out to help other law enforcement communities whenever they're needed.

KATO practices bite drills.  (Photo by Alex Svejkovsky, WJON News)


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