A police dog, also known as K-9 or K9 (a homophone of canine), is a dog specifically trained to assist members of law enforcement. Dogs have been used in law enforcement since the Middle Ages. The most commonly used breeds are German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, but several other breeds are represented having some unique talents. Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, and Labrador Retrievers, for example, are known for their tracking, trailing, and detection skills. Used as a means of law enforcement widely across the United States, Police K-9s usually serve in the force for 6 to 9 years. In many countries, the intentional injuring or killing of a police dog is a criminal offense.
Police Departments require a dog to first pass basic obedience training. The dogs must be able to respond to and obey the commands of their handler without hesitation for proper control.
There are two common classifications of police K-9s:
Patrol: These dogs are used to provide patrol duties (officer protection, suspect apprehension, area or building clearance, and security in sensitive or controlled areas.
Detection: These dogs are used to find either narcotics OR explosives. Note it is either one or the other.
Dogs used in law enforcement are trained to either be “single purpose” or “dual purpose” K9s.
Single purpose dogs are used primarily for either patrol duties or detection duties. We also have single purpose K9s that are used only for tracking, lost persons location, or cadaver detection.
Dual purpose dogs are trained to combine these duties in one K9. In the United States when a narcotics K-9 indicates to its handler that it has detected the odor of narcotics by searching the perimeter of a vehicle, the officer has reasonable cause to search the entire vehicle without a warrant.