Training A Police Dog: 4 Facts You Probably Didn't Know

According to the Washington Post and the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA), there may be more than 50,000 police dogs (K-9 officers) gainfully employed in the United States today.  Interestingly, this specific type of partnership between handler and canine is one of the oldest and most valued on record. In this post, learn four facts about modern training for police dogs that you probably didn't know.

Fact 1: The dog's handler is also the primary K9 trainer.

If you are currently enrolling in criminal justice graduate programs with an eye towards becoming a K9 handler, yours will be a more rigorous career path than your non-K9 corps counterparts. You must first graduate with your criminal justice degree, then attend the police academy and become a police officer.

Then you must become certified as a K9 trainer. From here, you will be responsible for your regular policy duties and for caring for and training your police dog partner.

Fact 2: Police dogs are chosen from many breeds and places.

It is a common myth that all police dogs come from a particular breed of canine, such as the bloodhound, the German shepherd and the Belgian Malinois. But different breeds have different natural abilities in tracking, search and rescue, crowd control, narcotics identification and more.

In fact, K9 officers hail from all walks of life just like their human handler partners. Some police dogs are even former strays and shelter dogs!

Fact 3: Many American states have strict legal protections for police dogs.

In many states today, it is illegal to abuse, assault or even interrupt a K9 officer that is on the job. 

At the federal level as well, the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act (FLEAPA) provides for a fine of $1,000+ and up to 10 years in prison for harming a police dog.

Fact 4: Police dogs are not ADA canines.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides a set of guidelines through which canine service animals can be trained as aids to people. This is a different role than that of a police dog. 

Police dogs, like ADA service animals, do wear descriptive vests and badges, but one should not be confused with the other. 

Police dogs play a very valuable role in law enforcement today, and the bond between K9 and handler can be as strong as the bond between two human partners. Not only are dogs considered man’s best friend, but they have proven to be excellent companions when it comes to the life and death tasks that surround police work and other extensive criminal justice maters.

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