Top Police Dog Breeds - the Ultimate Guide
Dogs aren’t just man’s best friend... they also help fight crime. Police Dogs (K9’s) are vital and beloved members of the Law Enforcement community. They are intelligent, loyal and perform many tasks that humans cannot. There are over 340 dog breeds in the world, each with their own unique traits and personalities, and here we will explore the Top Police Dog breeds that ‘serve and protect’ in Law Enforcement.
LIST OF POLICE DOG BREEDS:
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- They are the 3rd most intelligent dog breed in the world
- Athletic, with a Muscular frame
- Agile speed despite their large stature
- Very loyal. A German Shepherd would give it’s life to save yours, which is why they are one of the most popular dog breeds to be used in Law Enforcement around the world.
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- They are the smaller cousin of the German Shepherd
- They are more athletic however, due to their smaller physique
- Fun Fact: During World War I, they were primarily used as Messenger and Ambulance dogs. They have also earned the prestigious honor of guarding the White House in the USA!
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- They have the best nose in dogdom (dog kingdom), along with Beagles and Basset Hounds
- Their sense of smell is 1000 times stronger than a human’s
- Fun Fact: Bloodhounds were the very first dog breed to be commissioned by Police in 1889. They were used to search for the infamous “Jack the Ripper” in London
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- They are the 5th most intelligent dog breed in the world
- Slim, but Muscular frame, with cropped ears
- Excellent hearing ability - up to 250 yards away
- Incredibly loyal and obedient, making them great guard dogs!
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- Muscular frame
- Astounding attention spans
- Courageous, intelligent and loyal
- Fun fact: Throughout history they have been premiere Messenger dogs. For both world wars, these dogs were sent from base to base to deliver urgent messages
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- They are very obedient, and well-known for their gentle and friendly personalities
- Highly intelligent and proficient in tracking
- Due to their friendly demeanour, they aren’t often used as security dogs. However, this makes them well- suited for helping the blind, tracking down illicit substances in public areas, and participating in search & rescue missions
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- Highly intelligent
- Large stature
- Fun fact: They were considered one of the most versatile dogs of war. In both world wars, they were effective patrol dogs, guard dogs, and messengers for the military. Due to their high instinctive and adaptive intelligence, they were used for transporting communication wires between groups on the battlefield. This was done by attaching spools of wire to their collars, as they quickly maneuvered between stations
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- As the name suggests, they are very large (can be as tall as 70cm / 27in)
- Very obedient
- Their heavy, shaggy coats make them ideal for colder climates
- Fun fact: They are one of the few breeds that are allowed to serve in the Air Force
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- Cousin of the German Shepherd - originated from the Netherlands
- Highly intelligent, and athletic
- Fun fact: Due to their high intelligence and stamina, they are popular farm dogs in Netherlands - often used for protecting and herding sheep & cattle, as well as for guarding property
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- Kind and loyal dogs
- Well-known for their long and droopy ears
- Have one of the most powerful senses of smell
- Fun fact: You may have noticed, they are commonly used for sniffing/ detecting illegal substances in airports all across the world. In the US alone, they are responsible for seizing over 180,000 pounds of illegal foods being smuggled into the country every year. Great work, partner!
POLICE DOG BREEDS RANKING:
While the above dog species are some of the more common and well-known breeds to be used in Law Enforcement, they are not the only ones involved. It's not that one dog breed is more important than another, but rather, each species is more heavily used in areas that suit their unique characteristics. A common example is BloodHounds, who have an exceptional sense of smell. They are commonly used in airports to detect illicit substances such as narcotics, explosives, and illicit food products. We will now look at some of the other popular (and just as important) dog breeds that form part of the Law Enforcement community...
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- Friendly personality, and very intelligent
- Commonly used as Police dogs in the United Kingdom, whereas in the United States they are primarily used for hunting
- Fun fact: During World War I, they were instrumental in supporting the British army. They were commonly used for scouting and carrying military supplies
BOUVIER DES FLANDRES
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- Originated in Belgium
- Powerful dogs with a large frame
- Originally bred to be farm dogs, but evolved to be so much more
- Fun fact: During World War I, they were commonly used to deliver urgent messages and to pull ambulance litters. They were so active in fact, that many Bouviers lost their lives in the line of duty, almost causing them to go extinct! Following the war, their population was revived by organizations in France, Netherlands and the United States. However, their over-use during the Second World War almost caused them to go extinct - for a second time!
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- Courageous (and cute!)
- Their territorial and protective nature makes them excellent Guard dogs.
- Fun fact: They are the national dog of Japan. Though they are Japan's premiere Police dogs, they are not commonly used in Law Enforcement in other countries around the world
ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL
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- Though they are surprisingly athletic, they are more commonly known for their noses
- They have one of the most powerful senses of smell in the world
- Fun fact: At the Milan Malpensa airport, this dog was able to sniff out a man carrying an unreported $40,000 USD in his suitcase. That's truly an incredible sense of smell!
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- They are “Scent hounds” - with an incredible sense of smell
- Well-known for their short legs, and droopy ears
- Fun fact: They specialize in tracking “ground-scents.” This probably has a little to do with their short stature - don't you think?
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- Originally bred to be an all-purpose hunting companion
- They are capable of using their nose to pick up slight nuances of wind, and their pattern changes, to find the target. It’s really incredible!
- Fun fact: Their sensitive noses and powerful senses of small made them ideal hunting companions, but this skill is now being used to catch criminals and save lives
POLICE DOGS AROUND THE WORLD
Today, all countries around the world employ K9 units. Here we will explore some of the unique ways each country deploys them:
In Australia, Police dogs are primarily deployed for security purposes. They are involved in:
- the detection of drugs and explosives at airports
- crowd control during public events
- and search & rescue missions following natural disasters.
The most common breeds include German Shepherds, Labradors, Rottweilers and Belgian Malinois. They are also currently in the process of introducing English Springer Spaniels to the team!
Belgium has around 35 dog teams, most of which are comprised of Belgian Malinois.
Interesting fact: A third of them are 'tracker dogs' - trained to find living people. They are commonly deployed after earthquakes to locate individuals that may have been trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings
Canada has been using Police dogs since 1908. It is estimated that Canadian forces now have approximately 170 dog teams across the country, and it's continuing to grow as more and more municipalities see their value. They are employed for a broad variety of tasks, including: tracking illicit substances at airports, locating missing persons, and apprehending criminal suspects.
There are a total of 240 active police dogs in Denmark, each of which belong to one of three groups: Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3.
- Dogs in Group 1 are very experienced, and highly trained. Group 1 dogs are typically within the age range of 4 - 8 years old and are used for patrolling, rescue, and searching for evidence at major crime scenes.
- Group 2 dogs are employed for the same tasks as Group 1, but they do not participate in major crime scene investigations (or assist in searching for biological evidence).
- Group 3 is the beginner rank for police dogs, and they are only employed for patrol operations.
Their first K9 unit was established in 1949. They primarily help with crowd control, search & rescue missions, and the detection of explosives.
The K-9 teams in Netherlands focus on scent detection, and the tracking of: explosives, firearms, human remains, fire accelerants and narcotics.
They work on a 24/7 basis, with every shift having a minimum of 2 patroldog/handler teams on active duty.
The most common dog breeds used in India are German shepherds, Belgian Malionois and Labrador Retievers. They are most commonly used at airports, and for border protection.
Interesting fact: Many street dogs in Delhi are adopted and trained to serve in Law enforcement
Italian K9 officers are commonly used to maintain public order, detect narcotics and explosives, and participate in search & rescue missions
In Russia, Attack dogs have been used for a long time, and are commonly used during foot patrols. These dogs are kept on a leash at all times, and are required to wear a muzzle, unless they are needed to pursue and detain a suspect. These dogs must remain calm, docile, and unfazed by crowds or noise - until directed by their handler. They are a common sight in public areas. German shepherds are one of the most commonly used breeds, and they also serve in the army.
Currently, there are approximately 400 K9's deployed in Sweden.
Interesting fact: Police dogs live with their operators, and after retirement at age 8–10, it is very common for their operators to adopt and assume their ownership - highlighting the strong bond that forms between them.
There are over 2,500 police dogs employed in the UK, with Belgian Malinois being the most popular breed.
The use of Police dogs is widespread across the United States. The most common breeds in use are the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, though many other breeds are also employed depending on the task at hand.
Most police agencies in the United States – whether at the state, county, or local level – use K-9's as a means of law enforcement. Often, even the smallest of departments operate a K-9 team of at least one dog.
Interesting fact: Between 80–90 percent of police dogs purchased by the United States come from foreign vendors, mostly located in Europe.
POLICE DOG LIFESPAN
Canines in Law Enforcement have a working life of approximately 6–9 years.
In general, the lifespan of dogs varies according to their adult size:
- smaller dogs often live between 15–16 years
- medium and large size dogs typically live between 10 to 13 years
- and some giant dog breeds such as mastiffs, often live only 7 to 8 years.
- As you can see, the larger the dog size, the shorter their lifespan tends to be. Their size is typically determined by their breed
- You can find a complete list of canine lifespans by clicking here
In some countries, when police dogs retire, they may receive a pension plan for their service. Police dogs in Nottinghamshire (England) for example, have the opportunity to retire with a form of security paid by the government - to cover costs such as medical expenses.
In many countries, when K9 Officers retire, they are generally adopted and reside with their handlers - a reflection of the powerful bond formed between K9 and Handler teams over their years together.
If Police dogs are killed in the line of duty, they get the same tribute as their human partners - and a memorial service is often held in their honor.
POLICE DOG TRAINING
Training of police dogs is a very lengthy process. It begins with the training of the K9 handler.
K9 handlers go through a long training process to ensure that they can train the dogs to the best of their ability - particularly since police dogs frequently come into contact with members of the public.
Canine Handlers initially complete the general Police Academy training, before being transferred to a specialty canine unit. Prior experience with dogs, crowd control, and being friendly and approachable in public spaces are considered an asset.
Before a dog can be considered for a police department, it must first pass the basic obedience training course. They must be able to obey the commands of their handler without hesitation. Dogs are initially trained with language for basic behavior, before transitioning to command language which requires more experience and (depth).
Dogs used in law enforcement are trained to be either "Single-purpose" or "Dual-purpose":
- Single-purpose dogs are used primarily for backup, personal protection, and tracking.
- Dual-purpose dogs can not only do everything that single-purpose dogs do, but they also detect explosives and narcotics.
Their training is tough and requires being able to distinguish between different kinds of drugs, while avoiding the distraction of other smells that may be present. These dogs could smell narcotics even if one were cooking a steak right next to them!
Interesting fact: They cannot be trained to detect both narcotics and explosives - this is because canines cannot communicate to the officers which of the two they found... As such, they are specialized in detecting one or the other, and once a K-9 indicates to an officer that they have found something, the officer knows what to look for.
TYPES OF POLICE DOGS
- PATROL DOGS - As the name suggests, these dogs are effective at patrolling. They are generally trained in both suspect apprehension, as well as the detection of narcotics and explosives
- APPREHENSION AND ATTACK DOGS – These dogs are used to locate and subdue criminal suspects
- SEARCH & RESCUE DOGS (SAR) – They are used to locate criminal suspects... or find missing people and objects. They are particularly valuable when searching for missing persons following abductions or natural disasters
- DETECTION DOGS – These dogs are specially trained to detect illicit substances such as drugs and explosives.
- 'DUAL PURPOSE' DOGS - These dogs can do everything 'single purpose dogs' can do (such as backup, personal protection, and tracking), as well as detect explosives and narcotics. Acquiring a K-9 police dog that can do two jobs is considered more cost–effective, particularly for smaller departments with limited budgets.
Dogs have always been well-known for being 'man's best friend', but they are so much more than this... They form an integral part of our society, not just living with us in our homes as (part of the) family, but even serving in Law Enforcement where they are instrumental in saving and protecting lives. They are in many ways, the unsung Heroes in Law Enforcement. If you ask any K-9 Handler or Officer that has had a chance to serve with them - they will tell you that they are invaluable friends and truly remarkable members of our society.
This article was made in honor of all our incredible K-9 companions, as a gesture of appreciation and recognition for their devotion, service, and sacrifice. We are proud to serve with you, and we are proud to call you our 'Friend'!
Let us know more about any of your thoughts and experiences with Police dogs. We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.
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