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story.lead_photo.caption Deputy Corey Schmidt and new Callaway County Sheriff's Office K9 Krieger play tug-of-war Tuesday. Sunday was the pair's first official day on the job following eight weeks of intense training. Photo by Helen Wilbers / News Tribune.

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The Callaway County Sheriff's Office's newest employee is 18 months old, was born in the Czech Republic and loves playing tug-of-war.

K9 Officer Krieger and his handler, Sgt. Corey Schmidt, made their debut Sunday after completing training together Friday.

Schmidt said partnering with a K9 has long been among his career goals.

"I began in law enforcement back in 2015 with the Columbia Police Department, and in interacting with their K9s, I was fascinated by all the things they could be trained to do," he said. "My ultimate goal was to be involved in a K9 unit, and I'm lucky to have achieved that so quickly."

The sheriff's office's first K9, Iro, and his handler Deputy Alan LeBel, have been deployed hundreds of times and helped seize vast amount of drugs since 2017. Until now, they were the only K9 unit in the county and were tasked with assisting other county law enforcement agencies. In February, Sheriff Clay Chism announced the receipt of a $15,000 donation from Sinclair Research Center designated to pay for another dog.

"We're really excited to be adding a second K9 unit," Chism said. "Although these two K9s belong to the sheriff's office, we're ecstatic to help other law enforcement agencies across the county."

As Chism has said "probably 20 times," drug activity drives many other criminal acts. Iro has proved a valuable asset to the county in cracking down on drug activity.

Schmidt was one of several deputies who applied to be the new dog's handler.

"I've always had dogs in my family," Schmidt said. "Other than Krieger, we have three dogs in the house."

In April, Schmidt, Chism and Chris Smith, a dog trainer with the Boone County Sheriff's Department, traveled to Shallow Creek Kennels in Pennsylvania to choose a puppy. The kennel specializes in importing police-type dogs, including German shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Dutch shepherds. (Krieger is a German shepherd; his name, chosen by Schmidt, means "warrior" in German.)

"We visited six or seven dogs," Schmidt said. "They bring the dog in and put them through a hunt."

Each pup searched the room for a favorite toy and demonstrated their biting ability. Smith — who was choosing dogs for two other agencies aside from the CCSO — graded the dogs on qualities like drive, aggression, size and appearance. He then matched the top three with their handlers.

"He compares the dogs to the handlers," Schmidt explained. "A smaller handler needs a smaller dog."

Personality factored in, too.

"Krieger and I are both pretty outgoing, and he's very spunky," Schmidt said.

Then it was off to training for the new partners. Beginning May 6, the two spent eight hours a day, five days a week for eight consecutive weeks learning together. Krieger got plenty of breaks, the occasional Milkbone, and ample praise and pets, Schmidt noted.

"A dog like Krieger is bred to be a working dog — it's kind of automatic for them," he said. "But they still need time to be dogs."

Krieger enjoys playing tug-of-war, fetching and getting "the zoomies."

"He'll play tug-of-war until he falls asleep," Schmidt said.

Through careful training that broke down every task into small steps, Krieger learned to sniff for common narcotics and their derivatives, track people outdoors and indoors, defend his handler, and chase down and restrain suspects. Training was a learning experience for Schmidt, too.

"A lot of people have seen a dog track someone on TV and think they're following the person's scent," he said. "That's true for things like bloodhounds, but Krieger's tracking ground disturbance odors."

A dog's nose is so sensitive it can smell the difference between dirt or grass that's undisturbed or has recently been stepped on, Schmidt said.

By the end of training, Krieger had earned certifications with the Missouri Police Canine Association and the National American Police Working Dog Association. He'll receive at least 16 hours of maintenance training each month to ensure his skills stay sharp.

On Sunday, Krieger and Schmidt were called to their first case together. (See New K9 bags first arrest.) Krieger indicated on the vehicle being investigated, giving deputies probable cause for a search and leading to an arrest.

"I was probably more nervous than he was," Schmidt said of Krieger's first day on the job. "For him, it's all play."

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