LANSING, Mich. -

The Michigan State Police (MSP) is adding the services of 12 canine teams, including eight new teams and four replacement teams, that graduated from the MSP 2013 Basic Canine School on Friday.

This graduating class brings the total number of MSP canine teams to 49, which is an historic high for the department. The MSP Canine Unit responds to approximately 5,600 calls each year, making it one of the largest and busiest in the country.

The Basic Canine School is a 14-week intense training program conducted in-house by veteran MSP Canine Unit members. The handlers and their canines covered more than 100 miles on foot during the training, which also included subjects like tracking, narcotics detection, building, area, and property search, obedience and aggression. Additionally, the handlers received more than 100 hours of classroom instruction.

These teams will join other Canine Unit team members who are strategically placed throughout the state on call for service.

The MSP Canine Unit was established in 1960. All of the unit's canines are German shepherds due to the breed's high work drive and ability to handle duties with intelligent problem-solving. The MSP's canines retire to their handler or another loving person's home after working eight years.

The replacement team is a group of dogs that work with a veteran handler to prepare to replace a retiring canine. The four recently retired canines reside with their handlers.

The last Basic Canine School graduation was in August 2012 when five new teams graduated.