Opening and closing a car door doesn't seem like such a big deal, but for a 4-year-old German shepherd-Belgian malinois mix, it's an amazing feat.
The skill fits right in with the job description for Rik, a canine assigned to the special operations section of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
"I was looking for some ideas that we could do to show kids how we train our dogs," said Rik's partner, Deputy Selwyn DeLoach.
Rik, who is trained to sniff out explosives and firearms, spends a lot of time at community events, getting to know the individuals he protects.
Despite having a dangerous job, Rik is a "people-friendly" dog who likes being around people, said Capt. Charles Barranco, of the sheriff's office.
Deputy DeLoach said it took about 31/2 hours to teach Rik to open and close the car door.
"We first made Rik want to jump into the car by throwing one of his toys in the back seat," Deputy DeLoach said in a statement. "We then placed animal crackers underneath the door handle and combined that with the command to get in the car."
Aside from showing kids how the department trains dogs, there are some practical benefits to Rik's new skill.
"If I'm away from my vehicle and I need Rik to kennel up, I can give him the command and he'll go get in the car and stay," the deputy said. "He's a very smart dog. We try to teach him something different every week."
Deputy DeLoach said the only other dog he is aware of that can open a car door is Shilo, a patrol dog with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, which is where he got the idea to teach Rik.
Rik, who has been with the department for two years, can shake hands, roll over and bow down, and he is currently learning how to climb up the steps of a kid's play set and go down the slide.
"He's having a little bit of a hard time climbing the stairs, but he loves the actual slide part. He loves to get on the slide," Deputy DeLoach said.
When the two are off duty, the deputy takes Rik to his house. Rik has his own room with a bed and a touch switch so he can turn the light on and off.
"He's part of the family," Deputy DeLoach said.
Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org