Dogs are highly intelligent, trainable, and incredibly loyal. While many dogs serve their lives as faithful companions, other dogs work for a living. Police dogs have fascinating jobs, and you may have even seen a K9 at work in the community or performing in a local demonstration. These intriguing police dog facts provide insight to the breeding, training, and dedication that goes into each and every police dog.
How police dogs got started
The idea to put dogs to work in conjunction with police officers actually derives from the skills that hunting dogs displayed when helping humans to hunt bears. According to Dogster, bloodhounds became some of the earliest police dogs on record in Europe.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, humans flocked to urban areas, and organized police departments developed. Urban areas in both England and France started to regularly employ police dogs in the 1880s and 1890s.
Popular police dog breeds
Because these dogs perform complicated tasks, the dogs themselves need to possess certain traits. The American Kennel Club notes that police K9s must have an incredible work ethic, a desire to work with their handlers, and sometimes bravery and determination when fighting criminals.
Certain breeds tend to exhibit these traits more than others. The most common police dog breeds include the German shepherd, Belgian malinois, bloodhound, Dutch shepherd, and Labrador retriever.
That doesn't mean there aren't exceptions, though. According to Coventry University Group, police in Japan open up their police dog enrollment to any breed as long as the dog is an appropriate candidate for the program. In fact, a Chihuahua was even hired as a search and rescue dog.
Cost of K9s
Because Europe has excellent breeding programs that produce high-quality dogs, many police dogs are imported, according to the National Police Dog Foundation. While the cost of a police dog varies, many of these dogs cost at least $8,000, which includes airfare. However, many United States breeders have imported quality European dogs and have established great breeding programs. This means that the U.S. will be able to source quality police dogs from within the country, eliminating the cost of importing.
Police dogs go through an intense training process to prepare them for their careers, and it all starts before the dogs are even a year old. According to Men's Journal, young dogs are taught basic commands including sit, stay, come, down, and more. Then, they progress to more specialized training.
The dogs are exposed to many different situations so they can navigate stores, airplanes, crowds, and other situations without being distracted. Trainers and handlers work to make the training experience fun for dogs, rewarding them with pets and praise as well as plenty of playtime in between training sessions.
These cop dogs are incredibly talented and versatile, according to Dogster. They accompany their handlers on patrols, but police dogs can develop specializations, too. Some dogs assist with crowd control or search and rescue, while others track suspects and missing persons. Some dogs are trained to detect illegal substances like drugs, poisons, or explosives.
Unique handler bonds
Police dogs share special bonds with their handlers, but they go beyond the bond of your average working relationship. Dogster notes that human officers are trained in animal behavior, and some K9s live with their handlers. Handlers and dogs train together and may work alongside one another for between six and 10 years. When the police dogs are ready to retire, their handlers often adopt them and become their forever homes.