Since the domestication of the wolf, man has partnered with the dog for a number of different jobs throughout history. Dogs can act as protectors, herders, athletes, or simply companions. But there is no better example of humans and dogs working together than the police K9 unit: a team of both police officer and specially trained dog, which fill in one or multiple roles. They work together in tandem, utilizing the dog’s enhanced senses and prey drive while relying on the officer’s knowledge and experience.
While police dog breeds can vary somewhat, the tried and true breed that stands out as the ideal police dog is the German shepherd. With a powerful and athletic body, the German shepherd presents itself as an intelligent, loyal and steadfast companion, fit for police training.
K9 training is multi-faceted, as some police dogs can be dual purpose. Work for a police dog can consist of attack and protection training as well as scent work in the form of tracking people or detecting explosives or narcotics. Most dogs will specialize in one particular area, but like their handlers, a police dog will need to be able to respond to a number of situations in the appropriate manner.
Training a German shepherd for police work typically begins at a very early age. Most K9 units will adopt a puppy after eight weeks and begin training almost immediately following a temperament test that dictates whether or not the dog is suited for police work to begin with. However, training can take up most if not all of the first year of the dog’s life, so while the possibility for “flunking” police dog training does exist, most dogs are in it for the long haul.
Before considering police work for your German shepherd, you must have him temperament tested. An anxious, nervous, or scared dog will not make a good police dog and should not be forced to endure the training required. Your dog should also be health tested and given a check to ensure that he is healthy enough to begin training and is free of any illness or injury.
Following both of those check ups, you should be prepared with a proper reward like treats or toys for good behavior. For tracking and attack training, you should have an experienced trainer to assist you. For detection training, you need to have the substance that you are training your dog to detect, or its scent. This may require permission from law enforcement or supervision from an officer or professional trainer, depending on the substance. Be aware of any laws in your area before beginning police dog training and find a professional to supervise any and all activity that may require the use of force or an illegal substance.