SPECIAL REPORT: K9 TRAINING: Fighting the war on drugs

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GALLATIN , Tn. (WBKO) -- A unique officer training program combining work and play to fight a growing problem.

Introducing the master in the K-9 training world down in Hendersonville, Tennessee is Dean Hunter; Owner of Canine Command.

With the rise in drug trafficking and use in south central Kentucky and the surrounding area, canine trainer Dean has seen an increasing demand for K-9s.

"There's a huge rise in drugs in this area, and I think a dog, especially a narcotic dog, is a great asset for the department. Several departments this year has come on board and trained narcotic or asked me to train narcotic dogs for them. I'm going to say probably four to five departments I work with this year that hadn't worked with in the past."

While officers may be equipped with handguns and cuffs, a four-legged officer packing a tool we humans can't obtain.

"Canines have such a strong sense of smell, it's unbelievable. We don't know how strong a sense of smell a canine has, but we do know that our canine has 10000 co-factors more than a human being. They can also break down our odors where we just smell one specific odor. As you imprint them on the odors, you teach them how to go in to a final response letting you know that this is where the source is," Dean Hunter added.

Once the K-9 arrives to the scene to look for the possible narcotic, they don't realize what they're looking for is an illegal substance. Dean Hunter says all they're looking forward to is their reward after they find the drug.

"You know, over 30 years of fooling with dogs, or training with dogs, they still amaze me sometimes on how strong their sense of smell is and what they can detect," Hunter stated.

But what makes a k-9 truly special, is the relationship with the handler.

Back in 2013, officer Adam Tate was partnered with a dual-purpose K-9 named Yaro by Dean Hunter and have been working together ever since.

"Most of our dogs that Mr. Hunter selects for different departments are actually suited for the handler, and suits the dog's personality to the handler. His personality is a lot like mine, that's why we get along so well. We're so much alike in so many ways. The first day I got him, I was trying to take pictures of him and sent some pictures out and he ate my cell phone, so that was our first encounter," Officer Tate stated.

While being out in the field on a regular basis, officer Tate and Yaro understand why K-9's are an asset to the force.

"Drug issues is widespread all across the U.S. but especially here in middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky. It's growing every day and it's growing at an alarming rate. Not every department can afford to have a K-9. So a lot of times they'll call for mutual aid assistance for drug searches and things like that with a K-9," Officer Tate added.

But those who work with K-9's don't see them as a dog. They see them as a partner.

"Dogs are a joy to work with. I mean, they know they're a man's best friend," Dean Hunter concluded.

"I wouldn't trade it for the world. Best partner I could ever ask for. He's always got my back and I've always got his," Officer Tate explained.

A dynamic duo fighting crime four paws at a time.

According to Dean Hunter, training a K-9 can take up to 10 to 24 weeks with continuous refreshers between a handler and dog.

As far as the price for a trained K-9 goes, you're looking around nine to sixteen thousand dollars, depending on the training.

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