SPOKANE, Wash. - A police patrol dog is a very valuable tool, but just like a handgun, if your dog jams up when you really need it because the animal is distracted, that can put your life and other officer's lives in danger.
And that's why patrol dogs are learning to fly.
All this week, canine officers from as far away as Utah are in Spokane for an advanced class for dog handlers.
Washington is full of some pretty far flung places, so if a patrol dog learns what it feels like to ride in a helicopter here, he won't be distracted by the noise and vibration in the future.
"The more difficult situations we can expose them to, the more confident they are out on the street, which creates more success as far as capturing bad guys," said Spokane Police Officer Craig Hamilton.
And in Spokane, the bad guys often end up trying to swim the river to get away from the cops. So, the class exposes canines to keep after fleeing suspects, even if means just dog paddling to get where they're going.
"Absolutely, he loves it," said Whatcom County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Nyhus about his K-9 partner, Hyde. "And again, it's seeing that again. It's them getting positive repetitions and winning every time, that's so crucial to training an animal."
Hyde can sniff out drugs as well as find suspects on the run. He shows why dogs are force multipliers in the war on crime.
"So they can actually replace several patrol officers if we have to clear buildings," said Ofc. Hamilton. "They're much quicker at that. They also reduce the amount of force that's usually needed if we have somebody who is resisting."
And don't think for a second that these animals, even when they're wearing a muzzle, aren't having a good time.
This school is like a Disneyland for dogs. It's the handlers who are doing all the hard work.
When the training is over, the dogs will head back into their respective communities better prepared to do their jobs, no matter what the distraction. The tuition their handlers leave behind, reinvested in Spokane's K-9 program.