What Happens to K9 Dogs When They Retire?

K9 dogs perform a wide range of important tasks for a wide range of law enforcement agencies. For example, they see a fair amount of use in capturing suspects. Likewise, K9 dogs see use for everything from search and rescue to detecting drugs, explosives, and crime scene evidence. None of these tasks are simple and straightforward, so it should come as no surprise to learn that K9 dogs have to receive extensive training for their intended roles. Moreover, some breeds such as Bloodhounds, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers see much more use as K9 than others because those breeds possess the most suitable characteristics. For instance, herding breeds are very popular choices for capturing suspects because they have been developed over the course of generations and generations to possess the strength as well as the intelligence needed to manage livestock while working in close cooperation with their human partners. Something that carries over very well to capturing fleeing humans. Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that Bloodhounds, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers are breeds with a superior sense of smell, thus making them even better at detecting the relevant scents than the rest of their species. Considering that their results can have an enormous effect on a wide range of people under a wide range of circumstances, every single bit of efficacy and efficiency matter to say the least.

What Happens to K9 Dogs When They Retire?

Unfortunately, K9 dogs cannot remain as K9 dogs forever. After all, they are living beings, meaning that they are just as susceptible to the passage of time as their human partners. In fact, K9 dogs are even more susceptible, seeing as how their species has an expected life span of 10 to 13 years with some variation from breed to breed compared to the expected life span of about eight decades for humans. On top of that, it should be mentioned that K9 dogs live more stressful lives than a lot of their canine counterparts, thus speeding up the rate at which career-ending issues can come up.

Regardless, the important point is that there will come a time when K9 dogs will have to retire. Sometimes, this is because they are too old to keep up with the requirements of their intended function. Other times, this is because they have sustained some kind of injury that makes it impossible for them to continue on in their intended function. Whatever the case, it is interesting to note that retiring K9 dogs are now treated in a much more humane fashion in the present than in the not so distant past.

For those who are curious, most retiring K9 dogs were euthanized before 2000. To an extent, this is because the increased stress placed upon K9 dogs increase the chances of them exhibiting negative behavior such as aggression, separation anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder, with the result that they were perceived as being incapable of making a successful adjustment to civilian life. However, it should also be noted that there was a very real perception of K9 dogs being nothing more than equipment, meaning that euthanizing a retiring K9 dog was seen in a similar light as scrapping obsolete or otherwise useless equipment. This started to change when the issue came under the public spotlight.

In short, there was a military dog named Robbie that had developed progressive arthritis. Due to this, he was returned to the United States to see if he could be put on halftime duty. If not, Robbie was going to be euthanized, which prompted Robbie’s handler to make the request to adopt his canine partner because he could see where everything was going. When the request was turned down, Robbie’s handler went public, thus kickstarting the process that would result in what is called Robbie’s Law. Essentially, said piece of legislation says that retiring military dogs can be adopted by law enforcement agencies, their former partners, and then other interested individuals in that preferred order, thus providing them with a path for survival upon their retirement. Something that carried over to some extent to K9 dogs. Unfortunately, Robbie never managed to benefit from the law named for him because his arthritis had already progressed too far by that point in time.

Of course, there are still significant issues for retiring K9 dogs in the present time. As mentioned earlier, they live stressful lives, meaning that they have increased chances of developing not just behavioral issues but also physical issues. Due to this, retired K9 dogs can come with considerable medical costs, which are very much an issue for most people out there.

How Well Do K9 Dogs Adjust to Retired Life?

Still, the lot of retiring K9 dogs are much, much better in the present than in the not so distant past. Generally speaking, they get adopted by their handlers, which should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, there is already a well-established bond between retiring K9 dogs and their handlers. Something that tends to make the transition from their intended function to civilian life that much easier for the dogs. However, while this is the preferred outcome for law enforcement agencies, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, a K9 dog’s handler is dead. Other times, a K9 dog’s handler might have either financial issues or other issues that make it impossible for them to take care of their one-time canine companion in the way that they would like to. Fortunately, when that happens, law enforcement agencies can look beyond them to search for other interested individuals. Something that is helped by the fondness that many, many people have for dogs, particularly for dogs that are seen as being helpful or otherwise beneficial.

As for how well retired K9 dogs adjust to civilian life, the answer is apparently quite well. The process isn’t instantaneous. However, it is very much possible with some passage of life plus the right kind of support offered by the right people. On top of that, retired K9 dogs tend to be trained to behave in a different manner based on whether they are on duty or off duty, meaning that the adjustment to a civilian life isn’t quite as big of a jump as what some interested individuals might have expected.


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