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What Dog Breeds Can Be Police Dogs?

Police dogs (or Police K9s, as they are commonly called) are an integral part of any law enforcement agency. Local, state, and federal agencies use K9s for tasks such as apprehending a subject, detecting drugs, or search and rescue missions. They can also be used for more specialized functions, including detecting bombs, accelerant chemicals in arson cases, and detecting decomposing bodies. Police dogs are highly trained members of the force and need to recall many verbal and visual commands to respond in a variety of situations. Many of these K9s are considered a member of the squad and in many jurisdictions, causing intentional harm to or killing a police dog is a felony.

Here are answers to common questions about police dogs.

What is the Most Common K9 Police Dog Breed?

While the German Shepherd is the breed most commonly used in law enforcement agencies, there are several other breeds in use as well, depending on the function they serve for the agency.

Are German Shepherds the only police dog breed?

German Shepherds are the most commonly used breed for police protection; however, Dutch Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinschers have also been successful K9 breeds. Airedales, Akitas, and Boxers can also be used.

Can retrievers be police dogs?

While not used for protection, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers have some of the most sensitive noses for detection work, and thus are one of the most popular breeds used for this purpose in law enforcement agencies. Retrievers not only have that excellent sense of smell, but also a desire to work, which makes them an asset to their handler. Other breeds used for detection include the Bloodhound, Beagle, Basset Hound, Collie, Springer Spaniel, Foxhound, Coonhound, and Schnauzer. These police dogs are used as search and rescue (SAR), drug detection, chemical/bomb detection, and tracking.

Traits that make a good police dog

Police dog candidates for protection should be intelligent, strong, have an excellent nose, and aggressive. Unaltered males are often used in this role, as it helps to maintain the dog’s aggression. For search and rescue (SAR), bomb/arson detection, or cadaver dogs, they must possess a drive to work as well as a superior sense of smell. For any dog serving a law enforcement agency, intensive training typically begins very early in life, at about 8-10 weeks of age.

The average span of service for a K9 is approximately 6-9 years. During their time of service, the police dog’s partner makes all decisions regarding care. If a K9 is lost in the line of duty, they are buried with the same honors as their human partner.