There is a ton to know when it comes to police K9s. What do police dogs do? What breeds make the best police dogs? How are K9s trained? Do they get paid for their service? In this ultimate guide to law enforcement dogs, we answer all your questions and more. So, let’s get to it.
What Are Police Dogs?
Police dogs are highly trained service dogs that assist law enforcement personnel in a variety of specialized tasks. They undergo a lengthy training process in order to become experts at their jobs and ensure they can assist their human partners at an elite level.
What Do Police Dogs Do?
Police dogs can either be single-purpose, meaning the K9 has one specific job, or dual purpose, meaning the K9 is trained for multiple tasks. The most common K9 jobs are suspect tracking and apprehension, narcotic and explosive detection, and search and rescue (SAR).
Tracking & Apprehension
K9 police dogs are phenomenal at sniffing out bad guys, thanks to their highly tuned noses. When dangerous criminals are on the run, police dogs are often used to help law enforcement officers find the suspects. A K9 may follow a scent trail that covers miles of land before ultimately locating the target. Police dogs are trained to apprehend bad guys with their mouths. A police K-9 will bite a suspect’s arm or leg, holding him in place until the police officer can physically make the arrest.
Detection of Illegal Drugs and Explosives
Police dogs are often tasked with sniffing out narcotics and bombs. Narcotic detection dogs (NDD) are police K-9s trained to detect 5 basic narcotic odors: marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and MDMA. Explosive detection dogs (EDD) are trained to sniff out a variety of explosive materials. Both of these specialized K-9s are commonly utilized in searching buildings, security checkpoints, vehicles, pedestrians and packages.
Search and Rescue (SAR)
SAR dogs are trained to locate and help their handlers rescue missing persons. SAR dogs can be utilized after natural disasters strike—such as earthquakes, avalanches, or tornados—to find both alive and deceased victims. SAR dogs can also be utilized in non-disaster situations, such as if a child goes missing or a hiker gets lost in the wilderness. Thanks to the athleticism of these working dogs and their incredible olfactory systems, SAR K-9s can cover large areas of land in a relatively short duration—a helpful tool when searching for missing.
Police Dog Breeds: 5 Most Common Types
Not every human is meant to be a police officer, and similarly, not every dog is meant to be a K9 police dog. Police dogs are specifically bred to perform at high levels and excel at difficult tasks. Here are the most common dog breeds that excel at law enforcement work.
1. German Shepherd Dog (GSD)
By nature, German Shepherd Dogs are smart, courageous and confident. German Shepherds have a penchant for guardianship, with a strong willingness to put their lives on the line for their human counterparts. To top it off, these super-smart dogs have incredible strength, speed and agility, making German Shepherds one of the most popular breeds for police work. German Shepherds are commonly used for patrol purposes, but can also double as a scent detection dog.
2. Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois are extremely hardworking and versatile dogs, known for building an unbreakable bond with their handlers. To the eye, these dogs have an incredible elegance to their solid musculature. Like German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois are herding breeds. For hundreds of years, Belgian Malinois were bred to help their owners herding livestock. Thus, it’s fitting that Belgian Malinois are often utilized for apprehending criminals.
3. Dutch Shepherd
The Dutch Shepherd originated in the Netherlands, where it diverged from its cousins—German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois—in the 1800s. Alert and intelligent, Dutch Shepherds are competent police dogs that are used for a variety of challenging tasks, including tracking and apprehension, scent detection, and search and rescue.
4. Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers have an appearance that is less formidable than breeds like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. Notably, Labrador Retrievers have amicable faces and floppy ears—an appearance that lacks the intimidation factor needed for patrol work. Instead, Labrador Retrievers are used for their scent detection capabilities. Labrador Retrievers are hunters by breed, and thus finding explosives and illegal drugs is like playing a game for them. Labradors are also commonly used in search and rescue work.
There is a reason bloodhounds are dubbed “sleuth hounds.” In short, they are incredible at finding humans who are lost or hiding. With their powerful legs, bloodhounds have great endurance allowing them to track scent for miles over difficult terrain. Bloodhounds are very vocal breeds, a beneficial trait for search and rescue work. When bloodhounds find the target scent, they’ll let out barks and howls to alert the handler of their find.
10 Police Dog Facts You Should Know
Fact #1: Police departments have used K-9s for more than 100 years. Formal police training started around1899 in Ghent, Belgium.
Fact #2: K-9s typically begin serious police training when they are 12-15 months old. At this age, dogs are mature enough to concentrate on a task for an extended period.
Fact #3: Some police dogs are fitted with titanium teeth. Their natural teeth may suffer damage throughout their careers and metal choppers ensure a durable bite.
Fact #4: It costs more than $20,000 to fully train a police K-9.
Fact #5: On average, a police dog’s career lasts 6-8 years.
Fact #6: Police dogs debuted in the United States in 1907 in New York City.
Fact #7: A trained German Shepherd police dog’s bite has a force of 1,500 pounds per square inch.
Fact #8: Most police dogs retire by the age of 10.
Fact #9: Many states have laws that protect police dogs from assault by the public, with penalties including jail time.
Fact #10: Not all police dogs are bred to be police dogs. Some K-9s are adopted from animal shelters and trained to greatness.
7 FAQs About K-9 Police Dogs
1. Do police dogs get paid?
Police dogs generally do not receive paychecks. However, their basic expenses, like food and medical care, are covered by the department. The police dog’s handler may receive a stipend to cover additional costs.
2. How long does it take to train a police dog?
Prior to getting paired with a handler, a police K-9 typically has 8 months to more than a year of training. The handler-K-9 team then trains for an additional 3-6 months. It’s worth noting that a police dog never really stops training. Even when the dog is in service, the K-9 should always be honing its skills.
3. What happens to a police dog after it retires?
Most retired police K-9s will spend the rest of their days with their handlers, enjoying a life of relaxation and leisure. If handlers cannot take care of retired K-9s, loving families will adopt the ex-police dogs.
4. Do police dogs get rewarded for good work?
Most police dogs get rewarded with a tennis ball, Kong, or other chew toy upon a job well done. For example, if a K-9 is deployed to search a vehicle for narcotics and finds them, the handler will often toss a tennis ball to the police dog upon successfully completing the search.
5. How do police dogs know who to bite?
Police dogs read human body language in order to know who they are to bite. Police K-9s understand which person is a threat by looking for an individual displaying aggressiveness. Furthermore, the K-9 handler makes sure the police dog is fully zoned-in on the correct target prior to unleashing the dog.
6. How do police dogs stay safe in the face of dangerous criminals?
Many police K-9s wear ballistic, stab-proof vests to prevent them from being injured in the line of duty. Brady’s K-9 Fund is a non-profit organization that donates state-of-the-art LOF Defence Streetfigher body armor to police dogs in need. We believe K-9s should never hit the streets without a quality level of protection.
7. Do police dogs understand English?
Most police dogs learn commands in a foreign language, like Dutch or German. K-9s are trained in a language other than English for a couple reasons. First, many of these dogs are bred and raised abroad in countries like Germany or the Netherlands where English isn’t the primary language. Second, most criminals don’t know how to give police dogs commands in foreign languages. By training the dog in a different language, it adds a layer of security for both the K-9 and handler.
If you would like to help protect police dogs in the line of duty, please go to our donations page or click on the button below. Every donation goes toward providing K-9s with a LOF StreetFighter K-9 vest. No contribution is too small.
At Brady’s K9 Fund, we want the greatest protection for our K-9s. Police K-9s are hardworking, loyal and impeccably trained dogs that deserve the best tactical armor on the market. That’s why Brady’s K9 Fund partnered with the LOF Defence Systems, a leader in body armor and creator of the state-of-the-art StreetFigher K-9 vest.
LOF Defence’s K9 StreetFighter vest is equipped with many features to ensure our sponsored working dogs are safeguarded and comfortable when patrolling the streets. Here’s an in depth look at the LOF K9 StreetFighter vest, the only body armor we trust to protect our working dogs.
LOF Defence StreetFighter Vest
The Canada-based LOF Defence specializes in state-of-the-art body armor. Not only does LOF Defence strive to go beyond survivability with its vests, the tactical company aims to increase comfort, fit, and structural performance too. This allows law enforcement, K-9 units, military and special forces to be more effective and perform with improved confidence.
For K-9 Units, the LOF Defence StreetFighter vest is king. In fact, it’s the favorite choice of law enforcement K-9 handlers across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia. While the StreetFighter vest uses a minimalist design to keep the dog agile and driven, the vest doesn’t minimize protection over the dog’s major vital organs. It’s the perfect balance of functionality and survivability.
Top Features and Benefits of the Streetfighter K9 Vest
The StreetFighter K9 vest was designed using feedback from police and military personnel who previously lost their K9s in hostile situations. Using scenario-based feedback, LOF Defence created a ballistic vest equipped with innovative features and benefits. Here’s a look at what the vest provides our police dogs.
Why We Recommend the LOF Defence Vest
Many K-9 vests on the market are outdated and impractical. They are heavy and bulky. K-9s quickly tire and overheat, and K-9s lose their range of motion, agility and drive. Oftentimes, even if a police dog is issued one of these old-style vests, the handler won’t use it because the K-9 performs so poorly while wearing it. Thus, the police dog is left vulnerable and unprotected.
Brady’s K-9 Fund only donates LOF StreetFighter K-9 vests because we know this vest provides the best protection for police dogs. Because it is lightweight, ergonomic and packed with plenty of features that allow police dogs to perform at their best, we know handlers will always dress their K-9s with this vest before hitting the streets.
If you would like to make a difference in a police K-9’s life, please go to our donations page or click on the button below. Every donation goes toward providing police dogs with a LOF StreetFighter K-9 vest. No contribution is too small.
Some police K-9s need ballistic, stab-proof vests. Other working dogs need medical expenses taken care of after they retire. And some civilian dogs just need a new forever home. Whatever the case, there are a variety of specialized non-profit organizations that are eager to assist canines in need.
Whether you’re looking to donate or just wanting to learn more about how you can support a non-profit, here is our roundup of the 10 best organizations that help dogs.
1. Brady's K9 FundThe mission of Brady’s K9 Fund is to supply state-of-the-art ballistic and stab-proof vests to police dogs in need. While the jobs of K9s are important, not every police department has the funds to vest their dogs. Brady’s K9 Fund donates LOF Defence Streetfigher vests—a customized body armor that protects the dog’s vital organs, helps prevent heat exhaustion, and allows the K-9 to maintain mobility and work drive.
Fun Fact: The CEO and founder of this non-profit is a supercool 11-year-old fifth grader.
2. National Police Dog FoundationSince 1998, the National Police Dog Foundation has helped underfunded police departments purchase K9s as well as financially assist with the high-quality training of a department’s police dogs. As police K9s suffer a lot of wear and tear while working, this organization also offers assistance with the veterinary bills of active and retired police K9s. In fact, they have a network of veterinarians that include some of the nation’s best specialists in canine care.
Fun Fact: Did you know it can cost up to $25,000 to purchase and train a police dog?
3. Mission K9 RescueFrom reuniting military working dogs with their handlers to assisting retired K9s with issues stemming from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the Mission K9 Rescue is all about serving retired working dogs. Even working dogs that don’t have designated handlers are eligible to receive care from this non-profit organization. In fact, Mission K9 Rescue will prepare a working dog for adoption and find it a perfect forever home.
Fun Fact: Mission K9 Rescue is the first and largest working dog adoption organization in the U.S.
4. Warrior Dog FoundationFounded by veteran Mike Ritland, the Warrior Dog Foundation aims to transition working dogs from operational active duty to retirement in the civilian world. Many military working dogs and police K-9s are trained to be aggressive and have a bite history—not qualities an average person is looking for in a dog. As such, this non-profit provides mental and physical rehabilitation and rehoming services to help these elite dogs transition into home life and prevent them from being euthanized.
Fun Fact: Founder Mike Ritland served the United States as a Navy SEAL for 12 years.
5. Throw Away Dogs ProjectSome dog breeds are misunderstood. They have off-the-wall energy, have a penchant for biting, and need a more intense purpose in life than solely being a human’s companion. Throw Away Dogs Project rescues breeds like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois and trains them to become police K-9s. Once the dogs have received training, this non-profit organization donates them to underfunded police departments in need of K-9s. It’s a win-win for the dog and the department
Fun Fact: Prior to starting the organization, founder Carol Skaziak worked for Northwest Airlines. Her final year with the airline was spent flying with the NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles, as Northwest was the official airline for the team at the time.
6. Project K-9 HeroMilitary working dogs and police K-9s are heroes, just like their human counterparts. It’s the vision of Project K-9 Hero to ensure that retired working dogs are rewarded for their service with exceptional healthcare and the peaceful lifestyle they deserve. K-9s accepted into the project will have up to $3,000 a year in general medical expenses and all food costs covered. The organization also has an emergency fund to cover any unexpected surgeries that exceed each working dog’s annual monetary allotment.
Fun Fact: Founder Jason Johnson actively works with the United States Congress to pass the K-9 Hero Act, HR #5081, which would enable the Department of Justice to assist with the medical expenses of retired government working dogs
7. Retired Police Canine FoundationAccording to the Retired Police Canine Foundation, approximately 10,000 police K-9s retire each year. Once a K-9 retires, the police department is no longer obligated to take care of the dog. Unfortunately, K-9s don’t have a pension like their human partners. The Retired Police Canine Foundation aims to lessen the financial blow associated with taking care of retired K-9s, especially when it comes to their hefty veterinary bills.
Fun Fact: Prior to launching Retired Police Canine Foundation, founder Tina Geraci took care of New York Police Department’s K-9 Chief, one of the first K-9 Units post-9/11 to patrol NYC’s subway system.
8. The Mal-FFunctions Disqualified Military Working Dog Rescue OrganizationNot all dogs who are bred to become military working dogs make the cut. Many of them are deemed unsuitable for government work after undergoing some training, and are eventually adopted out to the public. The Mal-FFunctions Organization targets Belgian Malinois that are bred specifically for the Department of Defense’s working dog program but wash out of training. The organization assists with rehoming these dogs, making sure they find a loving forever home.
Fun Fact: The name of the non-profit—Mal-FFunctions—pays homage to the Department of Defense’s method for identifying the litters of puppies bred for its military working dog program. Each litter is identified by using a letter of the alphabet in pairs, i.e. AA, BB, etc. Each puppy in the litter is named a corresponding name starting with the double letter, i.e. AAndrew, AAlexander, AAustin.
9. BrightStar German Shepherd RescueOperating out of Rochester, New York, BrightStar is an organization dedicated to saving the lives of German Shepherds. All BrightStar dogs live with foster families in order to become better socialized, trained, and learn to live with loving families before being placed in forever homes. Potential adopters are screened extensively to ensure the German Shepherds will receive the best quality of life and be sure the new owners will remain committed to the dogs.
Fun Fact: According to the American Kennel Club, the German Shepherd is the second-most popular breed in the United States.
10. Woof ProjectBelgian Malinois make for some of the best police K-9s due to their incredible energy and drive. But these same qualities make it difficult for this breed to thrive in an average dog owner’s home. As such, many Belgian Malinois who live civilian lives are given up by their owners. Operating out of the West Coast, Woof Project specializes in rescuing Belgian Malinois and matching them with forever families.
Fun Fact: Originally bred in Belgium as herding sheep dogs, Belgian Malinois are now favored for narcotics and explosive detection, suspect tracking and apprehension, search and rescue, and military operations.
If you would like to make a difference in a police K-9’s life, please go to our donations page or click on the button below. We’re grateful for every donation, and no contribution is too small.
Police dogs are specifically trained dogs that assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in a variety of tasks. In this article, we’ll dive into the duties of a K9 officer and the role that they play in keeping the society safe. While they are out fighting crime and keeping us safe, it is our responsibility to prioritize their safety as well. Learn how you can make a difference in a police K9’s life by making a donation.
What Do Police Dogs Do?
Police K9s are specially bred service dogs who undergo extensive training, enabling them to assist their human partners with a variety of important tasks. Common K9 duties include suspect tracking and apprehension, narcotic and explosive detection, and search and rescue.
Some police K9s are single-purpose, meaning they have only one job, like finding illegal drugs. Other police dogs are dual-purpose, meaning they are trained for several tasks. So, let’s get into the details of the police dog duties!
Tracking & Apprehension
When dangerous criminals run from law enforcement, the K-9 unit is often deployed. Due to their speed, stamina and scent detection abilities, police dogs quickly track and catch a suspect. Upon finding the bad guy, police K-9s are often trained to bite and hold. A K-9 will latch onto the suspect’s arm or leg, debilitating and detaining the suspect until the handler calls him off and can make the arrest.
Detection of Illegal Drugs and Explosives
Police K9s have an exceptional sense of smell. It’s approximately 50 times more sensitive than a human’s, allowing police dogs to quickly find illegal drugs and explosives with precision. Police dogs are trained to stay focused on the scent they are looking for. They ignore myriad interesting smells that would distract civilian dogs. K9s can perform detection duties anywhere and are frequently used to find illegal drugs and explosives in locations like airports, concerts and athletic events, and even at routine traffic stops.
Search and Rescue (SAR)
When a tragedy strikes, such as an earthquake, tornado or explosion, special K9s are utilized for their search and rescue capabilities. A SAR K9’s compact, agile body allows it to search hazardous piles of rubble for humans—dead and alive. In fact, well-trained police dogs can detect human remains that are buried as deep as 15 feet underground. A SAR dog’s impressive endurance and ability to cover large swathes of land in a short period is a helpful tool when searching for missing persons.
How Can We Ensure Safety of the K9s
When police K-9s are released to apprehend suspects, they are often in immediate danger. The bad guys are frequently armed with deadly weapons and aren’t afraid to use them. A K9 is frequently sent off-leash ahead of his human partner, leaving the dog to fend for himself until the officer catches up. The only way to protect a police dog in these scenarios is with a state-of-the-art ballistic and stab-proof vest.
Unfortunately, many police departments don’t have the funds to provide their K9s with vests, which range in price from $1,000-$3,000. That’s where Brady’s K9 Fund comes in. While our organization has provided vests to 376 K9 officers, there are many K-9s who remain unprotected. Providing ballistic vests to wanting police dogs is made possible with your generous contributions. Brady’s K-9 Fund is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, meaning all contributions are tax deductible.
If you would like to make a difference in a police K-9’s life, please go to our donations page or click on the button below. We’re thankful for every contribution that is made.
Police K9s are incredible animals that take on so many tasks that humans just can’t do. They have the ability to detect explosive devices, narcotics, weapons, track fugitives and locate missing persons. These tasks often put the dogs in dangerous and potentially life threatening situations. In fact, the police K9s typically face a greater risk than their human counterparts since they are often sent in ahead to investigate dangerous situations. However, unlike the human officers, these K9s are not issued bulletproof vests.
The police departments are dependent on fundraisers and donations to help them purchase protective gear for their canine members. In this article, we’ll discuss why the vests are important, what features to look for when selecting a vest and what you can do to help keep our K9s safe.
The Need for K9 Ballistic Vests
The police K9s are often faced with potentially life-threatening situations in the line of duty. Having access to ballistic vests can make a difference between life and death for these dogs.
Do police dogs wear bulletproof vests?
Unfortunately, unlike their human counterparts, not every police dog is issued a K9 bulletproof vest as standard. Most K-9 units are self-funded and the law enforcement agencies do not have the budget to purchase these life-saving vests for their canine members.
Why do police dogs need ballistic vests?
The police dogs are often required to perform potentially dangerous tasks in the line of duty. Wearing a bulletproof vest can protect the K9s from gunshots, explosives, stab wounds, and blunt force trauma such as being kicked or beaten with a heavy object.
In the year 2020, 22 K9 officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the United States. The access to a vest can potentially make a difference in saving the life of a police k9.
How much do K9 bullet proof vests cost?
The K9 ballistic vests can be quite expensive and typically cost around $1000, but customized vests can run up to $3000. Not all vests are made equal and the price depends on a range of factors including the material used and the level of protection it offers.
K9 vest donations could save a dog's life
Sadly, most law enforcement agencies don’t have the funds to purchase protective gear for their canine members. Smaller police departments can barely afford their K9 officers, let alone bulletproof vests for each of them. In fact, most agencies are prohibited from allocating funds for purchase of equipment that is not for human use.
The law enforcement agencies are heavily reliant on external sources of financing such as grants, fundraisers and donations for the purchase of K9 gear. Several non-profit organizations are making it their mission to vest as many K9s as possible. We, at Brady’s K9 Fund pride ourselves for being one such organization that is prioritizing the safety of the police dogs. All the funds we raise go directly towards vesting a K9. To learn more about us and how you can help us donate a K9 vest, head over to our donation page.
Dog Bulletproof Vests: How to Select the Right One?
Not all ballistic vests are created equal. The quality of a vest can make a huge difference in the level of protection it offers. Also, bulky vests can negatively impact the performance of the dog due to excessive heat and weight. So here are some of the top features you should look out for in a vest.
Older K9 ballistic vests were often bulky and made it difficult for the dogs to move around freely. Companies such as LOF Defence are making vests that are streamlined and extremely lightweight allowing K9s to have more freedom of movement.
If you live in a hot state or country, it is essential that you select a vest that has some cooling technology. The K9 Streetfighter Vest has an inner layer of Outlast Thermal Management Systems™ fabric that prevents excessive heat soaking and helps regulate the K9’s body temperature keeping them cool. These vests can be particularly great for breeds such as German Shepherds that have a lot of fur and tend to overheat quickly.
Ease of use
When the K9 is on duty, things can get quite unpredictable. Sometimes, situations unfold rapidly where the K9 might have to be deployed immediately. In those situations, the handler might not have much time to vest the animal. That is why it is imperative to select a vest that is quick and easy to don & doff.
If you have excess funds, custom-fit K9 vests are definitely the way to go for added comfort and ease of movement. Unfortunately, these vests are quite pricey and can range anywhere between $2000 to $4000!
Best Bullet Proof Vest for Dogs
Because of the dangerous and unpredictable nature of their job, it is essential to us that the K9 officers are protected for the entire duration of their shift. That is why we only donate the LOF Defence K9 StreetFighter vest. This vest is specifically designed so the K-9 can wear it for an extended period of time without fatigue or any restriction in movement.
Here are some of the other features of this vest:
Protecting Our K9s: How You can Help
In 2018, our founder- Brady Snakovsky was only 8 years old when learned that ballistic vests were not automatically issued to the police dogs. Thereafter, Brady made it a mission to raise funds to protect the K9s and make sure that they come home safely at the end of their shift. Our donation program is available to police K9s not just in the United States but around the world.
So far we have vested 376 K9 officers. But our mission is far from complete. We still have several dogs on our waitlist, hoping to receive a vest from us. This is why we need your help. You can make a difference and help a police K9 stay safe by contributing to our fund. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, so all contributions are tax deductible.
If you would like to donate, please go to our donations page or click on the button below. We greatly appreciate every little contribution that is made.