Missing Chesterfield 6-year-old may be with mom
CLOSINGS/DELAYS: Find Virginia closings and delays here

Homeless puppies in K-9 training learn to track marijuana

RICHMOND, Va. – K-9 Officer Robin Robinson is using a simple game of hide and seek to train a group of hopeful police dogs.

“This is a scented towel. Right now it’s just scented with marijuana. This is one of the easiest odors, so that’s why we start them on this,” she said. “We want to make it super easy, so because this is the beginning for them.”

The Richmond Police Department has never had recruits this young, so keeping them on task can be a challenge.

“Normally when we get them, they’re a year, year and a half old,” said Sergeant Stuart Hannah with RPD’S K-9 Unit.

We first introduced you to Ivy, Lexi, Lilo and Stormy back in June.

Richmond Animal Care and Control had just donated the four Belgian Malinois puppies, born after the shelter seized their mother from the Animal Motel boarding facility.

Robinson said, “It’s a blessing for the animals, it’s a blessing for us.”

Sgt. Hannah says they wasted no time getting a hang of their new home.

“You can see from the pictures they, you know, tripled in size essentially. They’re starting to show a little bit of different personalities that we’re seeing,” he said.

A few weeks in, the dogs completed their first official training session.

“We started them off with small PVC curved pipes, and there was marijuana odor in one of those pipes and there was a little hole in the back, where we were putting little bits of hot dog,” Sgt. Hannah said.

Although that worked well in the beginning, the K-9 officers-in-training transitioned from food rewards to toy rewards.

“When they`re that small as a puppy, food is just what drives them more than anything,” said Sgt. Hannah. “Ultimately we don’t want hot dog sniffing dogs.”

“So we’re trying to build on them wanting these towels,” Robinson said.

Now at about five months old, the puppies are working to track narcotics at a wall located outside the RPD K-9 facility.

The recruits also get to watch current K-9 officers in action, learning to protect and serve through lots of playtime.

“So this is what they work for, nothing but praise and a towel,” said Robinson.

“We get our paycheck every other Friday, to the dogs that’s their paycheck,” Sgt. Hannah said.

The Richmond Police Department knows there's a chance not every puppy will become a working K-9.

But members of the K-9 unit say even if just one of them passes, it will save the city at least $5,500 because that's how much they normally pay for a new detector dog.

If you’re interested in following the puppies’ progress, you can visit their Instagram page.