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After proper training, this Oakwood police dog will hunt
Bandit trains with Oakwood police Lt. Rick Whaley. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

As a police dog, Bandit’s bark won’t stop anyone in their tracks just yet.

The 15-week-old German shepherd is still very much a puppy, and his work at the Oakwood Police Department is just beginning.

He’s the Oakwood Police Department’s first police dog, or in cop jargon, "K-9 unit." Once he’s grown and trained, he’ll be used mostly to track lost people or fugitives and sniff out illegal drugs.

Right now, he’s more apt to sniff legs under desks inside the department’s offices, where Bandit is allowed to roam in the mornings. He’s "pretty much" house-trained now, so there haven’t been any accidents to report, said his handler, Lt. Rick Whaley.

"He hasn’t learned what not to chew on — look at my fingers," Whaley joked.

Whaley handled police dogs previously for the North Georgia Canine Task Force out of Dawsonville, and believes Bandit, with the right training from an early age, could shape up to be one of the best by the time he’s a 100-pound adult.

Already he trains twice daily in exercises that resemble games of "hide and go seek," with Bandit given a hat to sniff that is worn by a volunteer "fugitive."

"He has to wait, and he’s hollering and screaming and ready to go," Whaley said.

Once he’s turned loose, Bandit usually tracks down the volunteers hidden 100 yards away in a matter of seconds. He’s rewarded, like most police dogs, with a toy: a burlap sack that makes squeaking noises when chewed.

Bandit, who was born at a breeding facility for police dogs south of Atlanta in Fairburn, undergoes training at the Georgia K9 Academy in Alpharetta. The dog costs $2,000, and the training will cost an additional $5,000, Police Chief Randall Moon said. Police also invested in a new sport utility vehicle to transport the dog.

Moon said his department, which last year helped in the search for a missing Alzheimer’s patient, needed the dog for tracking and "to combat the drug issue everyone’s facing."

In the past, Oakwood police have has relied on the Hall County Sheriff’s Office for working dogs. Now it has its own for the force of 15 officers.

"I need to start saying we have 16 officers," Moon said. "He’s a part of the team now."