Police K9

(Photo: iStock.com/BrianAsmussen)

As a partner goes, you could never find a more loyal and courageous partner than a police K9.

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.

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.

Member of Your Family

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.

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.

Police K9 History

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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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