Belgian Malinois as K-9 unit
Police dog getting ready to search a vehicle for drugs.
A police dog is a
dog that is trained
specifically to assist
similar law-enforcement personnel with their work. They are also known in the
United States as police K9s (a
play on words;
The term is also sometimes used in the common parlance of several countries
to refer to any
German Shepherd Dog because of the long history of the use of the German
Shepherd by the police and military; in some nations German Shepherds are the
only dogs used by those forces. In the post-industrial era German Shepherds have
often been depicted as police dogs in
movies and police
dog memorials. This breed is often still used, as are
and a few other breeds.
Chasing and holding
Most often, police dog refers to a dog who has been trained to guard
their handler and to find, chase, intimidate, and hold suspects who are
attempting to elude the police. Modern police dogs are not vicious animals; most
are trained to enjoy their work, with chasing and grabbing introduced to them as
tricks or games that can be played only when the handler (a police officer)
gives the appropriate command. The dog's goal is not to bite; it is to grab and
hold on at all costs until the handler gives the release command. This means
that the dog grabs hard, and a fleeing suspect can be bitten when attempting to
avoid or fight off a dog and the dog is attempting with full speed and energy to
grab the suspect. Most handlers, if possible, give the suspect a verbal warning
that the dog will be set loose if they do not immediately halt, and this is
often sufficient deterrent that the dog is not needed.
Some police K9 units prefer to start with a pursue and bark tactic, where the
dog barks to alert the handler to his whereabouts and to intimidate the suspect
and keep him from running until the police arrive. In this case, the dog usually
grabs and holds only when the suspect does not hold still after the dog's very
verbal warning. Others feel that the bark first, bite later strategy is not
effective and prefer to always use the chase and hold strategy.
Most of these dogs live in their handlers' homes and interact with their
family and friends on a regular basis to ensure that they remain social and
pleasant animals. This does not mean that it is acceptable to approach a police
dog to pet it or play with it while it is on duty.
A police dog and handler train and work as a team, because they must trust
each other and understand each other completely when working in stressful, even
dangerous, and often rapidly changing situations. Police K9 teams have been
accused of using excessive force in some cases, so it is critical that the human
be able to manage a difficult situation wisely, to use his trained dog only as
appropriate, and to be able to control the dog completely so that the dog can be
called off instantly when the situation warrants.
In recognition of the valuable role these animals play in police duties and
the dangers they face, there have been a number of measures to ensure their
protection. These include outfitting dogs with
bulletproof vests to protect them from
guns and some areas
have passed laws that make attacking a police dog a
In the United States, police dogs (which are almost always German Shepherds)
are usually trained in
so usually understand commands in
German. This might also be an asset in that the criminal being chased
doesn't know what the dog is going to do (German isn't frequently understood in
Other law-enforcement uses
Law enforcement also uses dogs for
tracking suspects or finding missing persons, or for detecting drugs or
Bloodhounds are often used for the former, although most breeds have an
outstanding sense of smell and can be trained to follow scent trails or to
detect certain kinds of odors.
Some dogs, called cadaver dogs, are trained in detecting the odor of
Dogs' noses are so sensitive that they are even capable of detecting bodies that
are under running water.
For some sniffer dogs in environments where it is perceived that a criminal
may attempt to kill the dog to prevent detection, a
dog is assigned with the sniffer to intimidate and, if necessary, attack anyone
who would attack the sniffer.
| Assistance Dog
| Herding Dog
| Attack Dog
| Detection Dog
| Guard Dog
| Hunting Dog
| Livestock Guardian Dog
| Police Dog
| Rescue Dog
| Search and Rescue Dog
| Sheep Dog
| Sled Dog
| Therapy Dog
| Military Animal
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