U.S. Air Force Veteran Eric Davis serves as a decoy when he’s not training K-9s.
Wearing a thick body suit and having an attack-stimulated dog run up to you may seem more of a nightmare for most people than an ideal career.
But for Davis, it’s exciting.
“If I reflect back on it, it was the excitement of the dogs and the actions―and at the time, a little bit of the mysticism,” he said.
Davis served in the Air Force for 11 years, active and reserve, from 1996 to 2007. He served in security forces and as a medic and eventually rose to rank of staff sergeant.
He said he chose to serve in the Air Force for “better opportunities” and because of his family.
“I’d been geared towards that for quite a while. I wanted to do something in the military. Family lineage—it’s pretty much been in every conflict since the inception of the U.S.,” he said.
Beginning around 1999, while working in security forces, Davis had the opportunity to act as a decoy—“a.k.a. the bad guy”—taking bites from the K-9 attack dogs. This alongside working with K-9 handlers piqued his interest in this field.
“The military for the most part doesn’t do a lot of training with their own dogs. You’re mostly doing maintenance scenarios. So, get this suit on and run from the dog,” Davis said.
While doing this “caveman type work,” Davis admits, “A lot of the dogs have chewed me up a bit.” But it was by choice, Davis said.
With his remaining battle bites, Davis said he’s now attracted to the methods of training that change a dog psychologically.
“As you become more educated in it, you realize the psychology and appreciate more the training aspect of things, on terms of a micro-level. If a dog accomplishes A and B, it’s more gratifying, having a breakthrough in learning, than having something super exciting, like a bite,” he said.
This interest in a dog’s “mental evolution” has led Davis to begin his own business Tennessee K-9 Consulting. After the military, Davis taught in Bedford County for a couple years after completing the “Troops to Teachers” program where he received his master’s in special education.
Combining his teaching talents with his military experience, Davis, along with Shelbyville Police Officer Brock Horner and his K-9 Trigger, were able to put on an exciting demonstration for a youth group at Calvary Baptist Church Wednesday evening. Davis and Horner have done other demonstrations before such as at the local police academy.
Officer Horner’s K-9 dog Trigger is a dual-purpose Dutch Shepherd. At four years old, he weighs just over 85 pounds, making him—along with his bite— quite the attack dog.
With Davis suited up in coveralls and a thick glove, Horner and Trigger demonstrated a “recall” situation in which Trigger would bite the “bad guy” and essentially boomerang back to the officer. Davis used his “bad acting” skills to tease Trigger by shouting and running away.
Using these K-9 officers is crucial. When arrested subjects choose to run from the situation, having a K-9 attack dog stops any further escalation as targeted subjects have a 100 percent rate of coming back to the officers, according to Horner.
And it’s the precise training and practice that Davis have worked with on other K-9s that keeps both law enforcement and military personnel units functioning.
Read more of Davis’ methods of K-9 training in the winter issue of Bedford Life, coming out Nov. 20.
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