LORAIN, Ohio (WJW) – It was training day for first-year students in the criminal justice program at Bowling Green State University on Tuesday.

The students watched as the Lorain Police Department’s canine unit displayed their skills, tenacity and ferocity at the city’s police training facility.

One by one, the department’s specially trained German Shepherds zigzagged their way through a maze, located the hiding place of an officer and bit into a special body suit he was wearing for protection.

While explaining the importance of his canine partner, Officer Adam Ehrke said, “Dogs to us are a locating tool. They find people, things, evidence, basically anything we train them to find. Their primary function is to ensure that everybody else on the street and me included, go home at night. It’s what they do, it’s what they’re trained to do.”

As part of the program, the BGSU students took turns using a battering ram to smash open a locked door.

They are also learning firsthand from instructors on the tactics and techniques that officers use every day and the challenges they face in units like the SWAT team.

“I plan on actually being a future SWAT officer. To be able to see something like this, this early in my potential future career is really awesome. It’s definitely better than sitting in a classroom all day taking notes,” said BGSU student Jacob Stonerook.

In one of the more intense exercises, the instructors gave the students an idea of what it’s like to search a home or a building for people who may or may not pose a threat to them.

They had to a make split second decision of whether to shoot or not as they moved through a maze with posters of various suspects and innocent bystanders. It provided a small sample of the pressures that officers can face, and it was an eye-opener for the students.

“It’s very interesting to see that these people are preparing for what’s the worst, so they need to practice in the situations that are potentially life threatening,” said BGSU student Julia Roffman.

In an era when police are facing scrutiny and in some cases criticism, some of the students are hoping to bring their own approach to policing when they someday return to the communities they plan to serve.

BGSU student Antonio Carrero, who grew up in Cleveland, told FOX 8, “The police officers get a lot of bad ‘rep’ from the minority community and being a minority as well, I want to help out, show them the good side of law enforcement. You know, that they can really help make a difference in people’s lives.”

Lorain police command officers say the training day provides the department with an opportunity to identify candidates for police work and to begin the recruitment process.