Coast Guard copter ride part of local K-9 training (VIDEO/SLIDESHOW)

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Laura Stetser/K9 officers and their dogs work on helicopter certification during a training exercise at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City on Thursday, April 25. Laura Stetser/K9 officers and their dogs work on helicopter certification during a training exercise at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City on Thursday, April 25.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Canines from the Atlantic County K-9 Academy received a bird's-eye view of their territory Thursday, April 24, thanks to U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, which provided helicopter training for the dogs and their handlers.

“These dogs have to be ready to go everywhere and be ready for anything,” said Joe Rodriguez, the academy’s supervisor. The officers and the dogs were in the 13th week of a 34-week program.

The 16 dogs that participated are all Type A animals by design, Rodriguez said. They are high-energy, sensitive and anxious, which makes them good at their assignments as police dogs.

But because of their personalities, it is important that they become familiar with situations that could create additional stress, like boarding and riding in a noisy helicopter.

The dogs went up in smaller groups. They were walked out to the runway, where a helicopter landed and taxied near them. They then were loaded into the aircraft and flown around to desensitize them to the experience.

Coast Guard Capt. Pete Mingo said that typically local law enforcement agencies conduct this type of training with the New Jersey State Police, but he was happy to open the hangar to the trainees.

“A lot of the dogs out there are young dogs, trying to make their way into qualification, and a lot of what we do at the Coast Guard is about qualification and proficiency,” he said, adding that any time his crew can interact with local officers it’s a win for the overall community.

"Today gave us the opportunity to meet the young law enforcement officers and to show them what we have.”

Mingo said the dogs all seemed to be tolerating the training well.

“Most people get excited (when they get on a helicopter), but most of the dogs I have worked with are calm and serene riding in the back. It’s interesting.

“Of course, when they land, they jump into action,” he said.

The academy trains the dogs for air travel so they can be prepared for incidences like missing person cases that may require them to be transported by air.

“The aircraft we fly are equipped with thermal imaging. I can see us potentially taking up K-9 officers who would deploy the dog from a ground-based location,” Mingo said.


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