Police Dog Training

The value of canines in police work has been proven over a period of many decades. The police dog's work has changed, expanded and evolved from the early days. Just as it was once thought that police officers needed to be big and brawny it was also thought that police dogs had to be vicious to control unruly crowds. Society now requires police officers that are consistently professional and diplomatic and expect the same from police dogs. First-rate training of police dogs is vital to the success of modern partnering of police officer and police dog.

Police dogs are used for a variety of tasks from tracking a lost child to sniffing out hidden narcotics. In order to fulfill the demands that agencies put on their canines, it is important to select breeds that demonstrate the qualities that render them most useful. The breeds most commonly used in this line of work are the German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, Rottweiler, Labrador, Malinois, and the Bloodhound. To select the breed best for the job, one must consider breeds that are most likely to qualify physically and mentally for their purpose.

  • The German Shepherd is often selected for its good temperament, physical ability, and fur coat that allows them to function in a range of environments. They are known to be alert and eager when working. A good German Shepherd is of good nature unless provoked.
  • The Dutch Shepherd is intelligent, affectionate, and obedient. They are known to have great stamina and a good temperament. By nature, they love and need to work for praise. They have lots of energy and need to use it.
  • A Rottweiler has great physical force and exceptional biting power. They are basically calm and self-confident. They also have an inherent desire to protect and have a strong willingness to work.
  • A Labrador is an enthusiastic hunter with a good nose. They are extremely intelligent and easily trained to perform many complex tasks. Its short hair is great for protection in water.
  • A Malinois has a distinct look of alertness and inquiry that signifies its intelligence. Its temperament is naturally protective and they possess a strong desire to work. This breed was developed for endurance, due to its original purpose of flocking all-day and guarding from invaders.
  • The Bloodhound is a natural hunting dog. This trait is used for tracking due to the dog's willingness to work diligently. It moves very slow in its work, but is very efficient. It is most common for the Bloodhound to have a mild temperament with lots of affection toward its' master.
Although diligence is a trait among most breeds selected for police work, that diligence must accumulate to what is known as "ball drive". This essential characteristic refers to the dog's desire to "get the ball" without giving up. Now, this "ball", in reality, may be the person it's tracking or the scent it's trying to detect. In many cases, this is the determining factor in selecting a police canine. Without this ball drive, the handler cannot be confident that the dog will work until the objective is met. Giving up cannot be a habit in this line of work for a police officer or his canine.

A good decoy is a K-9 trainer's most valuable tool. A decoy is a person hired to assist in the training of police service dogs by acting as a subject for which the dog is taught to search. The decoy is also used in the apprehension and control training phases by playing the role of an aggressive suspect. The decoy is trained in the use of protective clothing and arm guards. The goal of police dog training is to build the confidence and drives in the dogs. This is often accomplished by causing the dogs to feel superior over the decoy and in some cases, the decoys must become very animated and good "actors". This provides the trainer with a human being for realistic bite work. The dog can gain the experience of attacking without causing serious injury to the decoy because a bite suit protects the decoy. This bite suit is thick, durable, and covers all of the body except the head and hands.

Odor detection dogs are trained to recognize the scent of specific odors. For example, a narcotics dog most commonly recognizes cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. An explosives dog recognizes many odors like gunpowder, TNT, dynamite, and basically any explosive device. And, of course, a tobacco dog is trained to recognize tobacco. The situation with tobacco dogs is that they are mainly used in schools, and are multi-trained to detect some narcotics and minor explosives such as gunpowder (mainly things one might find in the schools).

A well-trained police canine must undergo extensive training in all areas where it will be used. This training is primarily used for competition purposes, and once the dog has proven their skills in what is called a "trial", it is presented to police agencies where these skills are put to practical use. Police dogs when fully trained are certified by the USPCA (United States Police Canine Association) or NAPWDA (North America Police Work Dog Association).
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