EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – They are a vital part of the El Paso Police Department (EPPD), with training as tough as any human officer, and just as valuable. On Wednesday, officials with EPPD gave us a look at their K9 training regimen.

The EPPD has a total of ten K9 teams, their handlers sharing that the dogs are used not only to protect their handler but can also prevent serious injury to a subject.

“Even though the dogs look vicious and can do some damage, if they’re in muzzle there’s a less chance of the suspect getting hurt if it’s a bite situation there’s less chance of our officer getting hurt,” said Sgt. Armando Castaneda with the El Paso Police Department K9 Unit.

K9 handlers invited KTSM 9 News to watch the different scenarios where the dog has a muzzle on and when it doesn’t.

In one instance the dog does not have a muzzle and is able to take down the suspect resisting arrest, and when the suspect turns to attack the officer the dog immediately reacts, biting the subject.

In a different demonstration where the dog wore a muzzle, the dog can also be seen taking the subject down allowing the officer to arrest them but without biting the subject.

The K9 teams work city-wide responding to calls where the dogs would be needed.

Castaneda says the dogs can be sent into the brush where someone could be waiting to ambush or they can be sent into a building to search. He adds that it’s a lot safer and effective to send a dog in to search for someone hiding.

“Send him in let him search for the subject, the subjects going to get surprised and the dog is a lot more effective in searching than a human. Because all we’re going is looking under generic areas but we’ve had people hiding in the rafters we have them hiding up in crawl spaces,” said Castaneda.

The training lasts for 21 weeks and includes narcotics training and patrol training.

“We put them through rigorous scenarios that we come up with using different buildings different areas and ultimately to find out does this new canine handler is he making the right choice is he deploying his dog in muzzle when it needs to be or out of muzzle or is it a situation where he’s backing up and saying you know what this is not a canine call for instance let’s call SWAT out…”

Sgt. Armando Castanda, EPPD

The dogs live with their handlers and while the dogs can easily take down a person with a command from their handler, when not working they can be seen playing fetch with their handlers.

“They become part of the family, I like to have my officers socialize their dogs with their family because the last thing we want is for there to be an accident,” said Castaneda.

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