MEDFORD, Ore. – Law enforcement agencies from across the state are in the Rogue Valley this weekend to test and certify police dogs. Medford Police officers say, in many cases, those dogs make the difference between catching their suspect or not.
Over a hundred dogs and their handlers came to the first of the three-day certification, that includes Cody, a Medford Police canine, and his handler, Levi.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but as long as you’ve been working with your dog, training with your dog throughout the year, you’re not going to have any problems,” said Levi Friend, an officer with Medford Police.
After two years of working together, Cody is getting re-certified to make sure his wits are still sharp.
“We’re both looking for prey drive, and their hunt drive,” said trainer Rob Havice. “You want a dog that’s real active and that will do anything to find what their trained to look for.”
Like many of the handlers, Levi picked Cody himself. He feeds him, plays with him, and takes care of him every waking moment, something experts say is critical for a dog on duty.
“The dog has to trust you and you have to trust the dog. It’s not something that is achieved quickly. It’s done over time with lots of time on the leash,” said Havice.
Each dog performs one of two roles. Detection dogs search for drugs or controlled substances, and patrol dogs help find and bring down suspects. In total, Medford Police has three.
“Let’s say we have a burglary in a school that’s been entered. The patrol dog can save us hours in searching that building. They’re extremely valuable to the department,” said Medford Police Sergeant DJ Graham.
A dog like Cody can spend a lifetime – 10 to 15 years – working on the force. And every day of Cody’s career will be spent with Levi…that is, if he can keep proving himself.
“All he’s got to do to impress me is pass,” said Levi. “I’ll be a happy handler if he passes, and I’m sure he will.”