Many people love their dogs; some even consider them an important member of the family, just as important as their “human” relatives. While all dogs are special, police dogs are in a class all their own, providing law enforcement with capabilities no human has and often helping to “crack the case.”
The majority of police dogs are male German Shepherds, which as you can imagine can be very intimidating to a criminal. You may wonder why other dog breeds such as Poodles or Golden Retrievers aren’t police dogs. Basically, German Shepherds are extremely intelligent and have the added benefits of being strong and aggressive. Police dogs aren’t limited exclusively to German Shepherds. Another breed that’s often used is the Belgian Malinois, a breed used for herding sheep in Europe. These dogs are imported and used in police/investigation work. Other breeds that have become K-9 (canine) officers include Boxer, Bloodhounds, Rottweiler, Giant Schnauzer, and Doberman Pinschers.
If you own a dog, you know it can smell things you can’t. Dogs have an amplified sense of smell, and police dogs’ noses are approximately 50 times more sensitive than a human’s. This is why police often use their K-9 partners when searching for illegal drugs, weapons, bombs, and even bodies.
How long are K-9 officers “employed?”
Police dogs generally work with their partners for about six or eight years, some as long as 10 years. Some of the dogs come from animal shelters. While on active duty and after they retire, police dogs live with their handlers. Essentially, the handler takes care of the dog just as we do our own pets and provides food, shelter, and care for the dog.
Interesting (and fun) facts you may not know about police dogs (K-9 officers)
Police dogs have been used in law enforcement for over a century, and were first used in New York City in 1907
While humans first identify an object by sight, K-9 dogs identify by scent first, then by voice and finally silhouette
Police dogs have been involved in some of the biggest drug busts in the country. K-9’s have the ability to sniff out illicit substances such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs and have led law enforcement to find and confiscate billions of dollars worth of illegal drug
K-9 dogs are capable of distinguishing between identical twins using their noses
There are two alerts a police dog may give depending on the situation – if drugs are found, the dog will paw the spot; if a bomb or explosives are found, the dog will sit down or use another type of passive alert, as pawing is dangerous in this situation
Training a dog for K-9 duty takes about 10 weeks, and involves basic obedience training with the dog being required to follow all commands without hesitation
K-9 officers maintain their skills by training daily with their handlers
Today, police dogs can sniff out thumb drives, hard drives, and other electronic technology when searching for illegal data
How much does it cost to buy and train one police dog? A whopping $15,000!
Killing or assaulting federal law enforcement K-9 is considered a felony offense. In the majority of states in the U.S., it is a crime to kill or assault a police animal. Police dogs are also used to intervene in riots or large-scale fights in many jails and prisons. Bloodhounds may track prisoners who escape prison.
Police dogs may work in specialized fields or for specific purposes including:
Detection or explosive-sniffing dogs
Search and rescue (SAR) dogs
Sentry or attack dogs
K-9 officers are not only essential for searching for evidence, drugs, explosives, lost people, cadavers, or electronics, their duties also include protecting their handlers.
We’ve always known dogs are very special animals. Now you know just and special – and vital – police dogs are in helping solve crimes and protect our country.