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Why Are Dogs Used By Police

Written by Assistant
Assistant is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Tuesday 15 February 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
dogs of the police
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Have you ever wondered why are dogs used by the police? Wonders of technology and further police training are always questioned as replacement options. However, can either of that offer what police dogs give to the police force? Exploration of the benefits a well-trained police dog may bring to a crime-fighting force helps to make sure that a police force is ready for every scenario and is well equipped.

Today we will be looking into why the police use dogs in the force, what the benefits are, and what they do. It is an interesting topic to discuss. Furthermore, if you are interested in working with the police or K9 unit then it is good to know how useful our canine friends are within it.

What Do Police Dogs Do

K9 units, another term for police dogs, have a number of roles and specialties. Their role is to follow the commands of trained officers to help assist investigations and capture criminals. The usual assumption is that those canine units simply chase the criminal, bite their arm, and bring them to the ground. However, these are dogs that have had extensive training, each in different areas to balance out the force. One role they play is the protection of the officers. So this means they need to be able to react before an attack but not overreact in a situation. Verbal and hand cues all go towards their training and enable them to act quickly and effectively in dangerous situations.

Many of the dog breeds used are required to be intelligent, strong, and have high stamina levels. Therefore, there are commonly used breeds including the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and even Rottweilers. Although it depends on the area they are specializing in and the country they are being used in which breed is most common and suitable.

For example, hotter countries may use police dogs with shorter fur and higher stamina to chase in the hot weather. Some smaller breeds are even used for scent detection.

Police Dog Specialties

Let’s dive into the three main categories of police dog roles.

Search and Rescue

The police will often train dogs to help find victims in emergencies. These dogs may even be used to detect suspects as sometimes police dog roles may overlap slightly. They cover large and dangerous areas so have to be careful, sensible, and always attentive to their human’s command. This also means they need to be agile and strong to explore dangerous terrain such as that that has been hit by natural disasters. The dog used for this role must also have advanced hearing and smell to help track humans that require aid and find them in difficult spots, such as buried under deep snow.


Detection not only pertains to drugs as commonly seen in films, but also explosives, blood, dead bodies, and other pieces of evidence. Each dog is usually trained in their own area and gives a signal upon detecting their specialty, such as lying down when they are in an area where blood has recently been. However, each dog is training differently. For example, a police dog who detects landmines will not lie over the site for obvious reasons and may instead bark or point depending on their training. Dogs have thousands and thousands more scent receptors than we do, so this tool they possess is one we can only imagine.


Police dogs used for apprehension are often the most commonly depicted in media. They are trained to chase and bring down the suspects so the police can handcuff them. They act through commands from their trainer, often hand signals as they are not easily confused or mistaken during the yelling of an arrest. Dogs are used for this position due to their speed being much faster than ours and the strength of their jaws for grabbing and pulling down a criminal. They can arguably do so more effectively during a chase which is why their work is so beneficial.

police dog job
Dogs are extremely loyal and highly trainable – these characteristics make a great partner for police officers.

Police Dogs : FAQ

If you are looking for some more knowledge about police dogs the check out some of the most frequently asked questions below. We try to answer some of the more abstract questions concerning these working dogs.

Are police dogs necessary? 

Police dogs offer benefits and skills that we simply cannot as humans. Their hugely advanced level of smell, speed and even their strong jaws for taking down an offender are unique skills. In particular, their olfactory sense can help to find evidence, missing people, and bombs or mines. We are unable to do so and even with technology does offer a quick and effective method needed on the scene.

Do police only use male police dogs?

Police dogs can be of either gender. However, males are often used more in apprehension and females more so in detection. This is because males are often larger and have more muscle to take offenders down. Whereas female dogs have been found to rather stay with their owner as opposed to leaving in a chase. Furthermore, female dogs arguably learn a specialty more quickly such as particular scent detection.

Which language are police dogs trained in? 

Often, police dogs will be trained with hand signals or in languages different than the native language of their country. For example, police dogs in the USA are often trained in German. This is to minimize confusion during apprehension or any loud crime scenes. If a dog is surrounded by yelling suspects, they may struggle to hear or pick out your command which can be dangerous. However, if they are trained in a different language, it is unlikely that the suspects only speak that language so your dog should be able to clearly pick out the command.

How do dogs track criminals? 

The main way a police dog tracks a possible offender is by using their scent. They use something called the scent cone, a cone-shaped area around a scent or piece of evidence used for detection. You can often see a trained detection dog sniffing and almost pacing back and forth. This is them moving through the cone to the area most heavy with the scent. In this case, they can then find the direction of the criminal to follow.

Are police dogs accurate?

Like with any employee, police dogs are not 100% accurate. According to a study by Jezierski et al. (2014), in their drug detection research, the dogs were 87% correct. Furthermore, only 5% were incorrect with the rest of the results indicating digs who were still searching after the time limit. Studies are still being conducted in all areas of detection to present a well-rounded statistic. However, with training methods evolving and becoming better each year, so are the results.

Police dogs offer benefits to the force that we, as humans, are unable to. Technology and our training are yet to compare to the natural abilities of a well-trained police dog. They can help police in dangerous situations and handle problems smoothly and with control. Regardless of the specialty, they are enrolled in, years of training help to mold a dog that helps to solve crimes and save lives. What are your opinions on police dogs and their use in the force? Let us know in the comments below!

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