Seventy days after U.S. Forest Service Officer Jason Crisp and his search dog Maros were killed during a manhunt, K-9 teams from across the area underwent a special class.
"This is training is relatively new," said Jeff Schettler, CEO of the Georgia K9 National Training Center. Schettler and his instructors came to Burke County at the request of the Law Enforcement Training Center at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton.
"After the tragedy with Jason we wanted to see what could be done to help keep other k-9 teams safe," said Steve Warren, director of the college Law Enforcement Training Center.
The new training deals not so much with the dogs but more with the dog handler, say officials.
The key in any k-9 search is knowing where the dog thinks the target person is.
"The dog will give a signal but the important thing is whether the handler can read those signals," said Schettler. "That's what this class is about."
Burke Deputy Bill Townsend has been on search teams with his dog Blue for years but says he never knew what to look for in signals from the dog, or even that those signals existed.
"This is new for me."
Every dog is different, say the experts, and only by intense training can handlers pick up the subtle signs the dog is giving out. The training also involves a team of armed officers going with the k-9 unit and working together as one group.
Schettler said Jason Crisp never had this training but it could have saved his life if he had.
"The problem is, we in law enforcement usually have to experience a tragedy before we see the new ideas," said Schettler. "This is something they just had no experience with, they didn't know they needed it but now they do."