Sioux City K9 units like well-oiled machines - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Sioux City K9 units like well-oiled machines

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -- Sioux City's police department is made up of brave men and women, but it also has help from canines -- and some pretty good ones at that.

One of the department's five dogs, "Eik," just took first place in a national competition for narcotics detection.

"If it's there and the dog can get to the odor. If the odor is emanating from the car or it's inside the room, the dog will find it," says Sioux City police officer Jay Fleckenstein.

Fleckenstein and his partner in crime-fighting, Eik have been at it a while.

"He's been training since he's been nine weeks old," Fleckenstein said.

Now at more than three years old, Eik runs like a well-oiled, drug sniffing machine.

Fleckenstein says, "The key is getting to the dog to where the actual odor is and then once they're in the odor, they can track it back to where the substance is located."

The dogs train once a week. Officers hide rags covered with the scent of drugs, and often within seconds, they're on the trail.

Fleckenstein says, "Our dogs are what's called 'aggressive indicating' dogs, where they'll start scratching and barking at the source where the odor is and then they'll be rewarded."

That can be either a game of "tug of war" or "fetch." It's how they were rewarded during initial training, when they were still getting used to the scent of drugs. Officers keep up the positive reinforcement, to help the dogs stay sharp.

Fleckenstein says, "You never stop training them. Once you start, you always continue because there will be things that they do very, very well and then things will deteriorate, so you need to work on them."

Fleckenstein says, the dogs' most valuable tool is their nose. Not only do they track down drugs with it, another big part of their job is to sniff out humans.

Fleckenstein says it usually takes between 18 months and two years before a dog is ready to hit the streets.

Online Reporter: Zach Tecklenburg

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