They search for drugs, track down suspects and help calm unruly crowds. Police dogs are playing a more visible role in law enforcement these days.
A dozen of the specially trained animals are showing off their skills in Bay St. Louis this week. Police officers put their four legged partners through the paces with several different obedience events.
The stress of the streets is missing from this Bay St. Louis ball field. But the officers and their canines face a different kind of pressure. Judges watch and evaluate their every move.
The police dogs must respond to both verbal and visual commands. Laurel police officer Gavin Guy is among the competitors.
"You have to get out and work with them every week. Me myself, I work with my dog about every day on something. If it's not just heeling or distance, I work with him every day."
Much of the competition is about dog handling and obedience, while other events specifically test a police dog's duties. Searching the tall grass for certain objects is a training tool for drug dogs.
"We conduct building searches, tracking, area searches for lost people or suspects that have run. Evidence searches, narcotics searches," said Phillip Lehman with the Huntsville, Alabama, police department.
Jackson County deputy, Doug McArthur, got his dog, "Dak," some 18 months ago. Like most K-9 units, the two are inseparable.
"He stays with me at the house and nobody else feeds him, nobody else takes care of him. You really bond with him. He goes to work with me 12 hours a day, and there's really a tight bond between a canine handler and his dog," McArthur said.
That special bond between an officer and his dog was quite evident throughout the competition.