Police K9


As a partner goes, you could never find a more loyal and courageous partner than a police dog.

Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.

Police K9 units provide many services including building searches, tracking suspects, and locating contraband like drugs and explosives. At some point during your police career, you may want to train as a K9 officer. If you’re starting your career with that assignment already in mind, you should choose a police department that takes a lot of pride in its K9 Unit. Unlike another police specialized unit where people can pass in and out without a lot of fanfare, this assignment is entirely different.

Your Commitment

You must be prepared to provide a high level of commitment in time and energy to achieve a high level of performance from both you and your canine partner. As a partner goes, you could never find a more loyal and courageous partner than a police dog. However, his level of performance will depend entirely on the skills you develop as a trainer and handler.

Whether a police department is big or small, your assignment to the K9 Unit will depend primarily upon the relationships you form with members of that unit. Here’s where the similarities between a police K9 unit and another specialized unit part.

When you’re forming those relationships, you never want to come across as a self-styled expert. Police K9 training is just like a lot of other things when it comes to the philosophical and technical aspects. Those aspects regarding training will vary among police departments. One style of doing things will not necessarily be better than another.

Member of Your Family

In most police departments, your police k9 will be your partner on a 24/7 basis. He’ll be a member of your family, and he’ll interact with family members much like any other family pet. Of course, he’s not just a pet, because he’ll be a fully functioning police officer just like you.

Before I became a police officer, I had the opportunity to observe the incredible capabilities of police dogs and their handlers. So, when I became a police officer, it was my fondest wish to work with a police K9 partner. Alas, that wish would never be fulfilled. In my case, the timing and the politics never aligned, but my inability to grab my top choice assignment never diminished my appreciation for both species of K9 cops.

Requirements for a Police K9 Assignment

Residence – Before you even think about a K9 assignment, you must possess a suitable residence. That would include a yard of sufficient size and fenced for the exercise and security of the K9.

Approval by Others – Your spouse, partner or other family members residing with you must approve the unique addition of a police k9 to the family environment.

Experience – Patrol experience and service commitment to the K9 Unit will be required. For example, the Baltimore Police Department requires a minimum of three years in patrol and a four year commitment.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police is the Holy Grail for police departments when they formulate policies and procedures for anything. I doubt you’d join a police department that doesn’t adopt IACP recommendations. If you study this IACP Patrol Canines policy and procedure, you should ACE any interview for a K9 assignment.

Some of the Choices for Police K9s

German Shepherd

police k9
police k9

German Shepherds played a heroic role as search and rescue dogs amidst the wreckage of the World Trade Center. Following the 9/11 attacks, they offered solace to both rescue workers and grieving families.

Belgian Malinois

police k9
Credit: Lebens

The Belgian Malinois was developed in Malines, Belgium. Malinois are intelligent dogs, and they have a great deal of stamina. They do well in police work, search and rescue, and performance events, such as agility.

Doberman Pinscher

police k9

The Doberman Pinscher made its first appearance in 1876. When Louis Doberman passed away in 1894, the knowledge of the breeds used in the creation of the Doberman Pinscher was lost.

Giant Schnauzer

police k9
Credit: Kotlyarchuk

The Giant Schnauzer excels as a police and guard dog as well as performing drug detection and search and rescue. There is no limit to the capabilities of a well-trained Giant Schnauzer.

Labrador Retriever

police k9
police k9

The Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog registered with the American Kennel Club. They also top the list in Canada and England. Labs perform drug and explosive detection, search and rescue, therapy, assistance to those with disabilities, and as retrievers for hunters. 


police k9
Credit: Glinskaia

The Bloodhound dates back to medieval France. Initially bred for trailing deer and boar, they have evolved into an active and intelligent breed. Their exceptional sense of smell earns them a vital role in law enforcement and search and rescue operations.

German Shorthaired Pointer

police k9

The German Shorthaired Pointer, also known as the GSP dog, is a versatile and elegant sporting breed. The Pointer’s ease of training, sense of smell and tracking ability makes it a good choice for police work.


police k9

The Beagle has 220 million scent receptors compared to our 5 million. Beagles are exceptional scent detection dogs, and their size allows them to fit into small spaces to detect contraband. You may see a Beagle patrolling an airport baggage-claim area sniffing out contraband food. 

Police K9 History

police k9
Original K-9 emblem from the inception of the unit in 1956.

First in the Nation

In 1956, the Baltimore Police Department became the first major police department in the United States to establish a permanent K9 Corps. All the dogs were male German Shepards. It began with two dogs to be soon increased to fourteen and then forty. Read more here.

Police Canines in History – Dogs for Law Enforcement. Dogs have been used by law enforcement agencies for over 100 years. The English used bloodhounds while searching for Jack the Ripper in 1888. During that time, they allowed canines to accompany bobbies (police) on patrol. In 1899, in Ghent, Belgium, police started formally training dogs for police work.

The Beginning of American K9 Units: A Brief History. In 1907, Brigadier General Theodore A. Bingham, the New York City Police Commissioner, sent Inspector George R. Wakefield to study the police K9 training program in Ghent, Belgium. Wakefield returned to the states with five Belgian sheepdogs for operation and breeding purposes. This would become the first canine training program implemented in the United States, but it met only moderate success. In 1956, the Baltimore City (MD) Police Department instituted the first modern police k9 corps in the United States. 

Police K9 Podcasts

Welcome to the Controlled Aggression podcast. Want to learn about K9 obedience, police dog training, learning theory and more? Jerry Bradshaw has been a sports competitor and police dog trainer for 25 years. He’s the executive director of the Protection Sports Association, and he’s been around the world competing and training K9s. 

Candid conversations about the reality of training, deploying, or competing with a canine partner. Each episode is a cross pollination from the professional and sport canine camps. We explore how we all want the same thing: A great relationship with our dog.

This podcast is all about Detection Dogs. We talk about training, working the dog in the real world, starting a new dog or working an experienced dog. If you work a detection dog that sniffs out bombs, drugs, guns, cell phones, electronic devices, or anything else, this podcast is for you.

Police K9 Radio is hosted by Gregg Tawney and Rich Hartman. Gregg has 22 years of law enforcement experience, 15 of which were as a K9 handler. Gregg is the owner of D-Tac K9, and he is the trainer for 21 law enforcement agencies. Rich has 15 years of K9 handling experience, and he is a trainer for D-Tac K9. 

In each episode of The Police K9 Training Podcast, host Jeff Meyer interviews guests and talks about issues related to all things Police K9. This show gives you valuable information that you can use on the street every day. Our goal is to make every police K9 team be the best they can be.

Working Dog Radio discussing all things K9, gear, tactics, training, selecting, and breeding from handlers, trainers, and breeders. K9 professionals from all over the world in law enforcement, military, search & rescue and special operations and SWAT.

Police K9 Training

American Mantrailing, Police & Work Dog Association (AMPWDA) provides K9 training and certification for search and rescue,  law enforcement , and K9 enthusiasts.  In addition, we provide obedience and personal protection training for the general public. 

American Police Canine Association Certification Standards. Each test is designed to determine the proficiency of the Police Service Dog team for certification in each phase of police work. The accreditation of these courses is acceptable testimony in court. Each test is based on a pass/fail basis.

Eden K9 Consulting Group has been in business since 1991. It is one of North America’s top consulting and training firms in law enforcement K9 Training and Deployments.   

Highland Canine Training, LLC. We offer quality police dogs and training for departments and agencies of all sizes. Our educational programs include Police K9 Seminars, Police K9 handler courses, as well as Police K9 Instructor Courses

K9 Global Training Academy – Working Dogs. The most important aspect of our police K9 training program is handler protection. The immediate goal of any dog trained by us will be the defense of its owner. In the event of an attack on its handler, a properly trained K9 will attack. The K9 will act regardless of whether or not it is commanded to do so.

National Narcotic Dog Detection Association (NNDDA) is a professional nonprofit organization. We are dedicated to the utilization and proficiency of scent detection dogs for law enforcement. Qualified private industry can also certify in scent detection.

National Police Canine Association (NPCA) is a non-profit association. We are dedicated to the training, development, and certification of law enforcement canine teams and their administrations.

National Tactical Police Dog Association. The NTPDA raises the standard for K9 team certifications, and the performance level of police K9 teams throughout the United States.

Police K9 Training

North American Police Working Dog Association. Founded in 1977, we are composed of law enforcement K9 officers throughout the United States and several other countries. We conduct in-service training throughout the year and hold a major national workshop yearly.

Optimum K9 Training program is provided by a Master Trainer certified by the United Police Working Dog Association. The program includes Utility/Patrol, Narcotics and Explosives. 

Penn Vet Working Dog Center aims to advance research and the application of the newest scientific findings. We provide veterinary expertise to optimize the performance of scent detection dogs.

Police K9 Magazine is a bi-monthly publication that serves K9 law enforcement officers. With readers in 54 countries around the world, Police K9 Magazine is the most widely read and distributed K9 publication. Editorial content includes articles about narcotics, explosives, patrol K9 training and deployment; interdiction; SWAT; K9 use in detention/correction institutions; accelerant and cadaver K9s; military K9 use and more. 

Stateline Canine. Janet Dooley Edwards and Shawn Edwards have a wealth of experience with Police K9 training as well as sourcing green and started green dogs. They are licensed with the ATF and DEA.

United States Police Canine Association. The Courts have determined that certifications are necessary to assess the canine team’s abilities in a specific discipline. Since 1971, the Association has provided annual canine team certifications. With these tests, we maintain the highest standard by reviewing all certification tests each year.

K9 Author Bios and Their Books at Amazon

police k9

Nigel Allsopp is a world authority on canines. He served for 15 years in the RNZAF Police as an operational military working dog handler and 18 years in the Queensland Police Service as an explosive detection dog handler. Nigel is currently a senior lecturer at the Queensland Police Service Academy.

Mike Ritland learned the value of working dogs as a member of SEAL Team 3 in Iraq. He would go on to found Trikos International to train K9’s for the SEAL teams. Mike continues to supply working and protection dogs to a host of clients. They include DHS, U.S. Customs, Border Patrol, TSA and the Department of Defense.

police k9

Brenda Aloff is a professional dog trainer specializing in problem behavior. A large part of her practice consists of dogs referred to her when traditional training techniques have failed. Brenda works with owners on re-socialization of fearful and aggressive dogs as well as teaching puppy socialization.

Jean Donaldson has over 30 years experience in dog behavior and training. She is the Founder and Director of the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers. Jean’s award winning books include The Culture Clash and Oh Behave!

Police K9

police k9

Rebecca Frankel is the author of New York Times best-selling WAR DOGS: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love. Rebecca’s feature article “The Story of Dyngo, a War Dog Brought Home from Combat,” is about the retired Air Force bomb-sniffing K9 she adopted in 2016. It appeared in Smithsonian magazine’s “America at War” issue.

Alexandra Horowitz observes dogs for a living. Her research began over two decades ago studying dogs at play. It continues today at her Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. She is the author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. A #1 New York Times best seller. 

Patricia McConnell, PhD, CAAB is an Ethologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. She has consulted with pet owners for over twenty years about serious behavioral problems, specializing in canine aggression. Patricia taught “The Biology and Philosophy of Human/Animal Relationships” in the Department of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Police K9

New Skete Monks have lived as a community in Cambridge, New York, for more than thirty years. Their two previous books, The Art of Raising a Puppy and How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, have sold almost three-quarters of a million copies.

Turid Rugaas has been involved with dogs as long as she can remember. She’s held classes at Hagan Hundeskole, her beautiful farm in the fjords of Norway, to her world-wide seminars. Turid is helping dogs by helping their owners see and understand the signals they give us.

Police K9

police k9

Sharolyn Sievert was awarded a Dog Writer’s Assoc. of America Maxwell award in 2017. She has been active as a volunteer Search and Rescue K-9 handler since 2003. Sharolyn has certified multiple dogs in Search and Rescue disciplines of Area Search, Tracking, Human Remains Detection, and USAR Disaster.

Kyra Sundance is a dog trainer, lecturer, and internationally best-selling author. Her books, kits, and DVDs have inspired dog owners worldwide to develop fun and rewarding relationships with their dogs. Kyra’s positive methods foster confident, happy dogs who are motivated to do the right thing. 

Nicole Wilde is an award-winning author and canine behavior specialist who lectures worldwide on canine behavior. Nicole is a regular contributor to Modern Dog Magazine and maintains her own Wilde About Dogs blog.

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