Only on 7: A behind-the-scenes look at K-9 training in Spartanburg Co.

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SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. (WSPA) – The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office is hosting a large K-9 training workshop this week for several agencies from all across the state.

7 News got a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a K-9 handler.

“Most handlers spend more time with their dog than they do with their spouse or their kids,” Lt. Steve Henderson with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office said. “Most departments work 12-hour shifts. That’s 12 hours, every single day that you work, that you’re with this dog; so, you become very close. They go home with you at night.”

The relationship between a K-9 and its handler is a unique one.

“A K-9 will not leave you behind. They are a partner that has no fear. They’ll be with you the moment that you need them,” said Lt. Matt Lovelace with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a bond. They’re there to comfort you, to console you, and they won’t let you down.”

And K-9s have several important functions.

“Detecting illegal drugs and explosives; finding missing and endangered persons–which seems to be happening a lot in our communities–or the criminal suspects who flee on foot,” Lovelace said.

But they can’t do it without training, and without their handlers being properly trained as well.

That’s why the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office–in partnership with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and non-profit organization Kilo-9 Foundation–are hosting a free three-day workshop for the special pairs.

26 handlers from about a dozen different agencies, from all across the state, brought their K-9s in to learn.

“That tool, with the proper amount of training and in the right hands, becomes a force-multiplier for any agency,” Lovelace said.

During the training, handlers are given important information in a classroom setting, like a use-of-force review.

“Understanding when you can use a K-9 and when you cannot use a K-9,” Henderson said.

Then, they’re put in different scenarios with their K-9s and must apply what they’ve learned.

“They’ll get everything from a downed officer that they’ll have to treat to an injured K-9 that they’ll have to treat,” Henderson said. “There may or may not be an active shooter scenario and a pursuit scenario.”

Officers told 7 News the training is essential in helping save lives–human and K-9 alike.

“We teach things from heat injury, which is pretty common–especially in South Carolina in the summertime, it gets pretty hot–all the way to how to deal with gunshot wounds, stab wounds, and those types of things,” veterinarian Dr. Rob Presley said.

“The number of police assaults and the number of police murders are up,” Henderson said. “So, we’re trying to give these handlers an extra set of tools to go on their toolbelt, to help them survive the one situation no one ever wants to find themselves in.”

Officers said it will also help them to serve their communities in the way they deserve.

“Tactics that are consistent with state law and federal law, and how to employ those, so that, at the end of the day, they can go home, their buddies can go home, and the community can remain safe,” Lovelace said.

The training will continue on Wednesday and Thursday.

The sheriff’s office said the K-9 training wouldn’t be possible without donations from Sgt. Jumper’s family.

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