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What Do Police Dogs Do? (An Overview of Their Work)

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

german shepherd police dog

What Do Police Dogs Do? (An Overview of Their Work)

Police dogs have become an enigma for many of us in the world. We see the incredible videos on social media of their intense training. We also witness the amazing ways they go above and beyond to protect their partners and, in some instances, give their lives to ensure their fellow officer’s safety. These types of videos and new coverage leave us all heartbroken, but they also have some of us wondering what police dogs do when they aren’t saving lives or sacrificing their own.

While we all feel safer knowing that police dogs are out there in the world, understanding what these incredible dogs do in their day-to-day lives is an excellent way to gain even more respect for these animals and the people who work with them. If you’ve wondered what police dogs do daily, read on below for more information and understanding of their work.

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Catching the Bad Guys

The first thing we automatically think of when talking about police dogs is apprehending suspects. During their training, police dogs are taught when a person is considered a threat. They are also taught to bite these suspects and hold them in place until backup arrives. This is done because in many dangerous situations, like those with armed suspects, police dogs are the first officers to move into the location. This is the police dog’s attempt to keep their human partners safer while they attempt to take control of the situation at hand.

Due to the training and understanding required in apprehension situations, many police K9s are herding dogs such as German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch Shepherds. These dog breeds are known best for their strength and intelligence which for hundreds of years made them ideal for working with farmers and their livestock. These same attributes are what make them great at catching the bad guys. When it comes to apprehension, however, the K9 should be stable and able to take the commands of their owners. Great training and the ability to determine when a suspect is considered a threat are one of the most important parts of a police dog’s life.

german shepherd dog biting on training
Image Credit: V_Lisovoy, Shutterstock

Finding the Lost

Dogs are known for their keen sense of smell. Your household pet knows when someone is coming to your front door before they arrive and are also great at recognizing the smell of visiting animals around the yard. This same sense of smell, along with years of training, makes it possible for police dogs to aid in the searches for people who have been kidnapped or gotten lost. Considering how amazing these animals are, they can be taught how to seek out living people or even find the remains of those who have passed. This is why you often see police, or search and rescue dogs, digging through the aftermath of explosions, earthquakes, and other types of disasters.

Finding the lost is one of the most important jobs of a police dog. These amazing police K9s can cover ground much faster than their partners. This is crucial when people are lost in the woods or have been taken against their will. Police dogs can also detect bodies in the water, allowing victims of drownings to be recovered much quicker. While police, search and rescue teams, and civilian responders are helpful in situations where someone is lost, the precision and speed brought to the table by police dogs are irreplaceable.


Another way police dogs put their incredible sense of smell to work is through detection. Whether they are using their sniffers to find bombs, crime scene evidence, drugs, or accelerants used in fires, police K9s make great use of the millions of scent receptors in their noses. This ability is helpful in several situations. Drug busts, keeping airports safe, or even determining whether a crime scene is safe is one of the most important jobs police dogs have and excel in.

Police dog training can also be taken into the world of combat. Military dogs are extremely well-trained in detection. This training allows them to protect their handlers and the rest of the squad they work with from the dangers of the warzone. Detecting landmines, explosives, and other dangers have allowed these special dogs to save the lives of many men in uniform, not just the police.

police dog training
Image Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay

Police Dog Training

Police dog training isn’t only for the K9. The training process begins with training the handler, or policeman first. For the officer, this process begins with their time in the academy. In most situations, it takes graduation from the police academy and around 2 years of patrol experience before an officer is allowed to apply for canine unit training.

While the future handler is undergoing their needed training, the police dogs are doing the same. A police dog must be able to complete a basic obedience course before they join the force. This is required to ensure the dog’s ability to follow their handler’s commands without issue or hesitation. With this type of training, the handler keeps control of the dog’s actions when they are in the field. This includes their action and the force they use when interacting with potential suspects.

Breeds That Make Good Police Dogs

two german shepherds in backyard
Image Credit: Ivor Ilic, Pixabay

Most of us think of German Shepherds when we hear the words police dog. While this breed makes excellent officers, it isn’t the only breed out there with the right qualifications. The German Shepherd is a preference of many officers due to their training ability. They are extremely intelligent, train easily, have lots of energy and stamina, and are very versatile. They make great search and rescue dogs, detection K9s, and excel when it comes to apprehending individuals. Their fierce loyalty also makes the connection between this dog breed and their owners extremely strong.

As we said, German Shepherds may be considered the preferred dog breed when it comes to becoming a police dog, but they aren’t the only ones. Here’s a look at other popular dog breeds that often make the cut and become outstanding officers.

  • German Shepherds
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Bloodhounds
  • Dutch Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Beagles
  • Dobermans
  • English Springer Spaniels

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In Conclusion

As you can see, the work done by police dogs is a great service to the communities they are striving to protect. Whether they are seeking out lost individuals, detecting deadly explosives, or apprehending the bad guys before they can escape, these well-trained and highly intelligent officers deserve the same amount of respect as their human counterparts. When you find yourself in need of police assistance, rest assured the K9 unit is definitely up for any task they face.

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Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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