Police K9 officers are held to the highest standards. These dogs must be trained to sniff out drugs, explosives and people. They must be highly disciplined and willing to answer every command the first time. As a result, they require specialized, intense training before entering police service.
Step 1 - Determine Local Need for K9 Officers
First and foremost, contact a local law enforcement agency and ensure they have a need for trained police dogs. Many agencies contract with particular breeders or trainers and don't obtain dogs from outside sources. After receiving confirmation that the agency is interested in your dog, begin the training and preparation process.
Step 2 - Determine Proper Training Course
Determine the training your puppy will need to enter service as a police dog. This information is available from the law enforcement agency that you work with. Each agency has its own particular requirements, so ensure you get the correct information and train your dog properly so no retraining will be necessary.
Step 3 - Train Puppy According to Standards
Train your puppy to the standards given to you by the police agency that will take the dog once training is complete. Your dog will need to know things beyond "sit," stay" and "fetch." Many police dogs are trained to recognize certain scents, such as illegal drugs, firearms and bomb-making ingredients. These are subjects that you will be unable to train on yourself, so it is best to locate a local police or military working dog trainer that has legal access to these training aids. Police dogs also are trained to navigate rough terrain and handle inclement weather conditions. These are things that you can teach your dog. Begin with small excursions and extend the journeys gradually once your dog becomes acclimated to the terrain and elements. Other police dogs are trained in search and rescue procedures. This also is something you can train yourself, by hiding objects and teaching your dog to find them. Start with easy searches at first, such as a treat hiding in your dog's crate. Increase the difficulty gradually until your dog can find obscure objects hiding behind obstacles in large areas. Police dogs also must be trained to take down criminals and protect their handlers. To train on this topic, you'll need a "bite suit" or equivalent, and the ability to teach your dog to bite a suspect only as much as it takes to immobilize them.
Step 4 - Get Certified
Obtain any certifications that your dog needs to enter service as a police dog. There are several organizations that provide these certifications. The law enforcement agency that is taking possession of your dog upon completion of training will let you know what certifications are needed and which organizations must be contacted.
Step 5 - Release Your Dog to the Police Agency
Though it will no doubt be difficult to say goodbye, you'll eventually have to release your fully-trained and certified police dog to the law enforcement agency to begin service as a police dog. The agency may be willing to provide you with updates on how the dog is doing, if you wish to keep updated on the dog's career and accomplishments.
Important Things to Consider
There are many different tasks that police dogs may need to know, and it is not feasible to teach every task to every dog. This is why it is extremely important to contact a law enforcement agency before you begin training your dog, so you can ensure that your dog is trained to standard and has the knowledge it will need to begin work as a police dog. This eliminates the need for lengthy retraining, and also can ensure that your dog is not rejected for police service.
Training a dog for police or military work is a long, detailed process and generally is done by professionals or those well-versed in dog training. You can do this yourself if you have patience and a sound knowledge of dog training principles.
By Maggie O'Leary
About the Author
Based in Oklahoma, Maggie O'Leary has been writing professionally since 2001. O'Leary has served in the United States military since 1997 and is a two-time OIF veteran. She has been published in several local military and civilian newspapers and national media outlets including "The Washington Post" and CNN. O'Leary has a Bachelor of Arts in history and legal studies.