Conference focuses on police dog training

Police dog handlers from around the country met in Vincent last week for the three-day World Detector Dog Organization Winter Conference.

Harpersville Police Chief David Latimer, founder and president of WDDO, said the conference involved preliminary training for handlers and their four-legged partners. The conference was held at the Forensics and Scientific Investigations K9 Academy, where Latimer is master trainer.

Latimer said 15 handler-dog teams attended this year’s conference, some traveling from as far as California. The dogs underwent speed tests to measure their agility and ability to avoid distractions. The conference also focused on canine scent detection disciplines, including arson or accelerants, explosives, narcotics, mold and termites.

According to FSI’s Web site, Latimer believes that there is no substitute for just getting out there and working with the dogs.

“With all the teaching and lectures your butt can stand to sit through, you can’t learn to handle a dog without handling a dog,” the Web site states.

Latimer’s training has proven to be beneficial to law enforcement agencies. One of Latimer’s canine pupils recently detected a bag of powdered cocaine in 80 inches of snow in South Carolina.

Latimer and his wife are now training 10 dogs, particularly German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois – Latimer’s preferred breed.

“I particularly like Belgian Mals because of the energy and focus they bring to doing (police work),” Latimer said.

The Latimers rescue 95 percent of their dogs, and a significant portion come from the Shelby Humane Society.

Latimer said this will likely be his last year as president of WDDO. However, he will continue to rescue and train dogs for police work.

“I’m about ready to pass the hat to someone else,” Latimer said.

For more information, call 966-8739.