By Molly Kirk/DWR
Photos by Meghan Marchetti/DWR
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Conservation Police K9 program continues to excel, and this year, they’re sharing their knowledge with neighbors. Officers of the DWR K9 Conservation Police are working with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), training K9 and Natural Resources Police Officer pairs for the neighboring state.
Six West Virginia DNR officers and K9s are spending nine weeks training with Virginia Conservation Police K9 Sergeant Richard Howald, an experience K9 officer, and other DWR K9 officers. “It’s West Virginia’s first time having a K9 program, so they’d reached out to see if we could help train those dogs,” said Howald. “It’s gratifying. Training the dogs—watching them progress and learn—is fun.”
Howald and two other DWR K9 officers who were the first group to join DWR’s K9 program in 2010 trained at the K9 Academy at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, an established training program utilized by law enforcement from all over the United States. In the years since, DWR K9 officers and dogs have trained both in Indiana and internally in DWR. In 2012, Howald trained two more K9 teams to join the program within DWR, and in the spring of 2020 Howald conducted an internal training program of five K9 officers and dogs into the DWR program. DWR has also sent K9 officers to the Indiana DNR program to act as instructors.
“Every year, we do go out to Indiana to help with the tracking portion of their school,” said Howald. “We’ve been training for quite a while. Over the 12 years of our K9 program, we’ve helped a lot of other states get started, helping them know what equipment to buy and where to source dogs, sharing information about training, helping them out.”
Ove three three-week session, Howald and fellow DWR K9 officers will offer guidance to the West Virginia K9 handlers and dogs. With successful training, each of the West Virginia DNR handlers will be certified in tracking, article search, and wildlife detection.