WITESBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — It takes a lot of training to become a K-9 officer. Hawkins County and Hamblen County teamed up to sponsor a K-9 training camp held at Camp Davy Crockett in Whitesburg. 

Several East Tennessee law enforcement departments, including the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office and Gatlinburg Police Department, participated in the training

“This is Nexus,” said K-9 officer David Barker with Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office. “He’s a six-year-old Belgian Malinois.” 

Nexus and Barker went through several different training courses to be able to maintain their certification.   

“They’re trained in narcotics, they’re trained in apprehension, and they’re trained in tracking,” Hamblen County Sheriff Chad Mullins said.

K-9’s and their handlers are required to attend one of these training courses every year along with a 16-hour training course every month. 

“It’s important for both of us because if you don’t use it, you lose it and the dog will never learn, he’ll never be able to do that job,” explained Barker.  

Officer Barker said being a K-9 officer was always a dream of his, 

“For me, as a kid, I always wanted to work with dogs. I’ve always had a thing for dogs. I know it was a childhood thing but I couldn’t see it any other way.” 

Sheriff Mullins adds that the job isn’t for every officer.

“You’ll have a dog in a car with you for 12 hours a day. You just got to love that kind of work.” 

Sheriff Mullin knows because, before he became Hamblen County Sheriff, he was a K-9 officer for seven years.  

“My dog was a dual-purpose dog, a narcotics detection dog and an apprehension dog,” he explained. 

Like all K-9 units, Nexus and Officer Barker are a team.  

“The reward is what activates him, you know,” he said. “Whether it’s a tennis ball or a ball on a string that’s maybe getting held up right now so that he pays attention a little bit more, is what he strives for.” 

They work together to keep our communities safe. Right now, Hamblen County only has one K-9 unit in their office but would love to add one more.  

Law enforcement offices have mutual aid agreements that allow them to use other departments’ K-9 units if need be.