When many people think of a police dog, they envision a hulking breed that’s ready to bite criminals on a whim. However, did you know that even a beagle can become part of a K9 unit? The most important prerequisite for a police dog is not breed, but rather the ability to follow commands and move in sync with their handler. In order to qualify for a K9 unit, a police dog has to undergo rigorous training, during which they must successfully demonstrate how they will react in emergency situations. In addition to different types of breeds, canine units are also used for a variety of tasks, including but not limited to, missing person’s searches, drug investigations and even routine traffic stops.
The most common breed of dog that is used by police forces around the world is the German shepherd. They are known for their loyalty, ability to follow commands and alert nature. However, other dog breeds can also be trained for K-9 units. For example, the Belgian Malinois is also a very common police dog breed; it’s very similar in appearance to the German shepherd. There are many different dog breeds that can be trained for search and rescue, including Labrador retrievers, pointers, giant schnauzers and bloodhounds.
The training that police dogs have to undergo is very intense. After all, if the dog is not able to listen to their handler 100% of the time during training, then they are not suitable for police work; an unreliable dog would be a liability to the force in terms of public safety. They have to be able to differentiate between the general public and a foe. Just like their human counterparts, not all dogs are cut out to be on a canine unit.
The duties of a police dog vary according to what their training entailed. For instance, while most people are aware of what a search and rescue dog does, the knowledge of other police dogs isn’t nearly as widespread. In addition to aiding in missing person searches, a police dog can also be used to detect the presence of drugs and explosives, aid in arson cases and in the recovery of deceased persons. Each dog is trained in a specific area, such as arson, cadaver-detection, or search and rescue; this allows them to become extremely good at what they do.
After police dogs spend three years on the force, they are then retired. Most of the time, their handler is given the option to take them home. However, some police dogs are adopted out instead. It takes a special owner to be able to handle a canine with police training. This is one of the primary reasons why their handler is given the first option to give them a forever home.
- How Police Dogs are Trained – Learn what the basic training session for a police dog might look like.
- Selecting the Right Police Dog – Get a behind the scenes look at one trainer’s method for selecting a dog that displays fight drive instead of prey drive.
- An Overview of Being a Police Dog – Find out what happens to a police dog during their career on the force and after retirement.
- The History of the Police Dog – Learn about the history of using canine reinforcement in conjunction with police units.
- National Police Dog Foundation – Read through a list of frequently asked questions pertaining to police dogs, their training and retirement.
- Using Police Dogs for Drug Detection – Find out what kind of legal obstacles early canine units faced.
- What’s it like to be a police dog? – Get a behind the scenes look at what goes on during the life of a police dog, including their training, retirement and level of interaction with their handler.
- FBI Working Dogs – Police dogs aren’t just for local police forces; they also serve an important role within the FBI.
- FAQ’s about the Canine Unit – Learn more about being an officer on the canine unit, including how police dogs are selected.
- Types of Police Dogs – Read through a brief description of each type of police dog.
- Police Canines and the Public (PDF) – Check a compilation of data that explores the interaction between police canines and the public over a six year period.
- Abusing the Power of the Police Dog (PDF) – Learn more about some of the inappropriate uses of police canines in the past, and what’s being done to prevent it from reoccurring.
- Police Dog Bites (PDF) – Find out what happens in the event that a police dog bites a citizen.
- Police Dog Training – Watch an educational video that details the type of training that a police dog undergoes.
- Breeds of Police Dogs – Discover some of the more popular breeds that are used for police work.
- List of Service Dogs – Browse through a list that compiles what the top breeds are for each line of public service work.