CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Police K9s can sniff out drugs, bombs and dangerous suspects, but even they get skittish around a swimming pool for the first time.
Kanawha County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Mathis and a group of K9 officers trained their dogs at the Coonskin Park swimming pool on Tuesday.
Every year just before the end of summer, the swimming pool is opened for Mathis and his police dogs. The dogs think it's one big game of catch and a chance to be rewarded with treats. But Mathis knows exposing the dogs to the water is an important part of their training.
"It's about socializing the dogs to a water environment," Mathis said. "If we were conducting a track of a suspect and we came upon a creek, it would not be a big deal to them."
Mathis likened the swimming training to exposing the dogs to the sound of gunfire. But some dogs are better with the water than others.
Kanawha Deputy Jeremy Ferrell had to get in the pool and pretend to be hurt before his K9, Scout, would jump in after him. The dog's protective nature overrode any fear of being around a swimming pool for the first time.
"If you ever get attacked in your swimming pool, you know you'll be OK," a fellow deputy joked.
Mathis' K9, DEA, was afraid of the water at first but eventually wanted to swim in the deep end before the training was over, he said.