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Sniffing out a winner: Local dogs to participate in regional K-9 trials

Cops and their K-9 partners will be gunning to be top dog this month in Hudson.

The U.S. Police Canine Association will hold regional trials June 12-14 at multiple locations in Hudson, Wis., where the public can get a look at the various disciplines officers and police dogs must master in order to receive their certification.

"It's a certification, but it's also a competition," said St. Croix County Sheriff's Office Patrol Lt. Jason Sykyora, who heads up his agency's K-9 team.

Between 80 and 100 teams from agencies around Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota are expected to attend the event, including Washington County deputies and Woodbury police. St. Croix County and Hudson police are the two agencies organizing the event.

During the event, K-9 teams are tested in obedience, criminal apprehension, suspect search, evidence search and agility. Teams must not score less than 70 percent proficiency in any two disciplines — or overall — in order to be certified to perform on-the-job tasks related to those skills for the year.

Failure at the event doesn't spell doom for teams, however; multiple events each summer in the area offer opportunities for K-9 teams to pass muster.

Sykora said almost all teams pass with room to spare, so for many participants, the trials represent an opportunity to shoot for a perfect score of 700.

He would know a thing or two about such a pursuit. A K-9 officer until 2013, Sykora and his partner Doc scored a 699 one year.

"I was a trophy hunter," he admitted, noting that there's good reason for others to shoot for the top. "These awards do motivate people."

The actual certification trials will be held on Monday and Tuesday, June 13-14, at various locations in Hudson, though Sykora said the premiere event for the public will be on Sunday, June 12, at EP Rock Elementary.

That's the public demonstration being held from 6-7 p.m., where a select few teams will run through a series of family-friendly demonstrations that Sykora will be narrating.

"It's traditionally been a pretty well-received event," he said.

The public is welcome to attend the trials, too, though Sykora said those will be more methodical and, at times, a bit on the boring side. For instance, he said the evidence search testing held at Camp YMCA will largely consist of officers and dogs roaming a large, grassy area.

And while tests like that might test the public's attention span, Sykora—a K-9 handler for several years until his dog Doc retired—said there's seldom a dull moment for those in the know.

"It's just wonderful," he said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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