20 Things You Didn’t Know About Police Dogs

While there is no doubt a lot of people all across the world who can appreciate the role that dogs have played in aiding law enforcement to better do their jobs and keep people safe, there is still a lot that people either haven’t been made privy to at all, or simply did not realize about police dogs. These invaluable members of the police force serve a great number of purposes and are trained in a number of specialty areas. Understanding a little more about them can help you to appreciate their role on your local police force, and bring you to a better understanding of how they are helping to keep you and your family safe. Without further ado, here are twenty things that you didn’t know about police dogs:

Where The First K9 Units Were Implemented

Few people know this, but in the United States, the first K9 Units for police forces was in New York in 1907. This was one of the most important moments in the history of canines working alongside the police, as it would usher in an era where these units became the norm for moderate sized precincts to have. New Jersey is also credited with being the first to allow K9 units to get started in certain cities, but this actually would come a short time after New York first allowed their own units to get started and training together. Now these units can be found in almost every town and city across the United States, which is a testament to how much of an impact these dogs have had on crime solving and prevention over the past 100+ years.

Speedy Searchers 

While humans, especially those who go through extensive training to be members of police forces across the country are trained to thoroughly search a room for specific target objects and evidence, studies have shown that they cannot do it nearly as quickly as a properly trained dog can. With the right guidance and information, a dog is able to search a room that could contain evidence nearly four times faster than a dedicated human. To just say that having canines on the force would save every precinct time (especially in time sensitive cases) would be a severe understatement. This also allows for certain areas to be cleared much more quickly, devoting the entirety of the force working a case to new areas and following new leads.

History of Police Dogs Dates Back To Ancient Greece 

You might be surprised to learn this, but using dogs on policing units and groups has been around for a lot longer than a bit over a century. While the United States might have started implementing it just around the turn of the 1900s, dogs working in conjunction with law enforcement has been around since Ancient Greece. There are actually numerous works of art that depict policing bodies patrolling with four legged companions, and this could help to show for just how long the dog has been appreciated for his keen senses and loyalty to individuals. From the earliest depictions of this collaboration of man and beast, subsequent time periods have also showed dogs in investigative, protection or patrolling roles along with a human counterpart. 

Trained To Alert Handlers To POIs In Different Ways 

You might have wondered how certain police animals are able to identify different potential issues, evidence or threats and relay that information to their handlers. For example, drugs being discovered by a police animal are identified in a completely different manner than a canine sensing the presence of a bomb. Using these two examples to show the different ways to signal threats, lets look at what a dog is trained to do in either scenario. If the dog happens across drugs that are buried, they are often trained to claw at the ground where they have identified the smell most strongly. Bombs on the other hand, could detonate if a dog were to dig into the ground at the site, so they are trained to be less aggressive in signaling, often by sitting down on the spot. There are many, many other signals to let a handler know what they are dealing with. 

Dogs Have A Unique Process For Identification

You might not know this about dogs, but their method of identification is actually one of things that makes them so good at working in conjunction with the police. Since the strongest senses on a dog are their sense of smell and their hearing, these mark the two ways that they identify and distinguish between people most quickly. By using their sense of smell, they can often identify someone that they know (or someone that they have never encountered before) well before that someone is able to be seen with their eyes. The same is said for their ability to hear. While falling just shy of their ability to smell, a dog’s sense of hearing can help them to identify a person as well. Lastly, the dog will look at the silhouette of a person and the profile they have created in their brain is complete. They can then identify friend or foe, and all of this will happen in a matter of a few seconds.

The First Dogs To Be Used For Policing In Precincts Were German Shepherds 

It might not be surprising that many of the K9 Units throughout the country (and even the entire world) use German Shepherds in their force. What you might not know is, that these incredible animals have long since been the first choice among policing bodies to partner up with, making German Shepherds an easy choice when it came to choose what breed would make up the first precinct squads with dogs. The reason that they have been selected more often than not is that they are highly intelligent, they are hard workers, are very loyal, and above all else, they are highly obedient creatures. This makes them an easy choice in a niche of profession which greatly hinges on a dog listening closely to commands in the heat of the moment. 

Trained To Notice Minute Differences 

You might not be aware of this fun fact, but police dogs are actually able to quickly identify a suspect or person of interest between a set of identical twins. There are several parents out there who might have trouble sometimes picking out the difference between their twins, but canines in the profession are especially good at noticing minute differences that the better part of us would be inclined to overlook or brush past. On top of this, they are trained to be detail oriented, working through their unique steps of identification to pick out the differences where there genuinely appear to be none. This also follows them into other aspects of their craft in other areas of investigations, where there might have been preventative measures that obscured potential evidence that would typically be overlooked by a human investigator. 

A Dog’s Professional Career Is Short 

While you might be able to bring up your memory how short (in comparison to the average human’s life) a dog’s life actually is. With this in mind, by the time they are of age to be properly trained to be police companions and investigators, a pup typically only lasts on the force for somewhere between six and eight years. While this might not seem like a long time, when they are properly trained and ready for action, a canine can help to prevent a lot of crimes and help to solve several more throughout their short careers. Once a dog has reached the point in which their senses begin to slip, or they are simply too physically unable to continue the demanding nature of the job they are asked to do, they will be retired from the force. 

Incredible Nose 

It has already been established, even on this fun fact list, that dogs rely most heavily on their sense of smell. You might wonder why that is. Just how much better can a dog smell than a human you ask? The answer is typically two hundred to four hundred times greater. This means that in terms of distance, dogs are able to smell things that same magnitude farther than their human counterparts, or smell scents that are so faint they are undetectable to a human nose. This is part of what makes them such a valuable member of every police force that they are assigned to, as their nose becomes an entire investigative tool to help locate important things. 

Takes Roughly 15K to Get and Train A New Police Dog   

You might think that training a police dog isn’t an expensive venture, and many would argue with you that you are correct. It really depends on how expensive you think it is to spend roughly fifteen thousand dollars per dog to have them trained, provide the right equipment, and general upkeep expenses is. Of course, before you think that this money is being pulled from the money that taxpayers in your region are putting in, you should know that this is rarely the case. In most scenarios, money that is seized in drug raids and other police efforts that cannot go back into normal circulation is used to fund these training programs for new dogs for precincts. Even if it were taxpayer money, it is still a valid investment, is it not? 

Required To Train Daily 

The amount of work that a trained canine is putting in is not done whenever they leave the training facility and get assigned to an officer on the force. When this happens, both that officer and his furry friend are making a pact to train with each other each and every day to keep the dog’s senses sharp and his training fresh in his mind. Twice a month it will be required of all of the officers with dog companions on the force to get together and run group exercises together. This ensures that the team is able to work together when needed, but also allows a sense of comradery both between the animals themselves and their respective handlers as well.

Line of Police Dog Training Cards

If you have been a collector of cards in the past, be it baseball or Pokemon, you should know that there is a special line of trading cards that have been put out for police dogs that are in service or that have retired. Much like other cards of this nature, the front will feature a picture of just the dog by itself or with its handler. On the back of the card, you will get several stats about the pup, including his age and what precinct he currently or formerly belonged to. There is usually stats to indicate the kind of service that the dog did in the force, and how effective he has been at his job within that time. 

Commands Are Often Given In Dutch 

There are several people that think that the reason that complex and even basic commands are delivered in Dutch is due to the fact that commands could be given erroneously from random people that encounter the dog, but this is not the case. The reason that most commands are offered to a dog in the Dutch language is two-fold. The first of these reasons is so the dog can differentiate commands in a crowded and noisy place. The second reason for this is because many of the dogs used by police forces are brought over to the United States from Holland. This means that for their young lives before they are shipped over, the language that they have heard and are comfortable with is Dutch.

Responsible For Keeping Billions In Drugs Off The Streets 

When you stop to think of the sheer magnitude of working animals throughout local stations all across the country, the amount of good that they do in busting drug dealers and major operations is keeping a lot of these illegal substances from ever reaching the streets. It is estimated that the amount that these dogs have been able to prevent reaching the streets of the country is somewhere in the neighborhood of billions, if not hundreds of billions in seized or destroyed product. This figure should reinvigorate you that the money that is spent to train and put these dogs into service is money well spent indeed. It should also indicate how little of the working man’s dollar is actually spent for these units to come together.

Either Gender Makes Equally Good Police Service Dogs

You might have asked yourself when you stopped to think about service animals, or more specifically the dogs that are used for policing efforts, if one gender or another stands out. In truth, neither gender is any better in any nature of the job than the other. The police forces that utilize animals in this nature are not even sure what they are going to be getting until the official paperwork arrives, that is how little that the gender actually matters when it comes to policing with a pooch. 

Have A Variety Of Jobs 

For as much as most people know about police dogs, there is a lot that they don’t seem to know as well. One of those things is as simple as knowing what many of these dogs on the force can actually do. While there are undoubtedly a lot of them that are reserved to identify drugs and major threats like bombs, is there anything else that they can do as well? Canines are especially good for tracking suspects, they are used for public enforcement scenarios when things are out of hand, and finally, canines are also used to identify the presence of a dead body or where one has been. These tracking and scent identification techniques are trained using a dog’s toy. Over the training, the smell of the toy is altered to identify different types of drugs or chemicals commonly used to make bombs. 

Are Learning To Identify Computer Hardware Now

Using similar tracking techniques that were just identified to point out specific smells, trainers are making a new type of K9 Police officer that is geared to hunt down hardware, flash drives, hard drives and more items like this. This can be especially important in a world where much of the dastardliest crime is happening on the internet and through computers. This is also going to prove very handy for critical evidence that is being hidden from perpetrators on computer drives. With the right training, these special task dogs will have an easy time finding these components and getting the evidence to the handler.

Training A New K9 For Policing Takes Around 10 Weeks 

As you were already made familiar with how a dog is actually trained to identify certain smells when they are hunting narcotics or explosives, you might be interested to know how long this process usually takes a dog to complete. Every training course for a new service dog is slated for ten full weeks. It will be after this time that the progress of the pup is evaluated and it will be determined if the dog will have to stay behind a little for additional training or if they are indeed ready to join a police force eager to have them come aboard. 

Partners On and Off The Job 

Once an officer and a service dog are paired up, there is very little that will happen to separate the two from each other. The dog will go home with the officer every night and come to work with him every day. This helps not only to instill trust and dependence with the dog and its handler, but also builds an unbreakable bond of loyalty that only this nature of police pairing can achieve. When it is time for a service dog to retire, he remains with his handler until he dies. This still gives the service animal several years after retirement to enjoy the company and love of his handler and his family. 

Many Different Breeds Make Up The Force 

While I was earlier established that German Shepherds are a common breed of dog to be used in policing efforts across the globe, you might be surprised to learn that there are actually a lot of different breeds of dogs that are part of forces all across the country. For detention and acquisition of fleeing suspects, there are nearly 20 breeds in use. For drug detection purposes, over ten breeds are common. Commonly there are 8 types of tracking dogs and six breeds that are good for finding cadavers. While some of these breeds can fit into multiple categories, they are often trained for one specific task like this or another.


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