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How Are Police Dogs Trained?

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A german shepherd police dog being fed a treat by an officer.

Have you ever seen a dog riding around in a police car and wonder what do they actually do? There are many jobs that a police dog can have, and there is a lot of training that goes into getting these dogs to do these jobs.

Sometimes you can train your police dog yourself, but sometimes they may need a professional dog trainer to help. This article will explain what a police dog does and the amount of training they require.

Police Dog Training

When a puppy is young, the earlier they begin their training, the better. The type of training that these dogs will have to do depends on what breed of dog they are and what job they will be performing.

German Shepherds and Malinois are best at protection and patrol dogs. Labs and Bloodhounds make great scent dogs. Beagles are great at working in airports and border patrol.

Usually, this training may begin around eight weeks of age. They will have to start to learn basic obedience training and start socializing with other people and animals. These dogs will start to learn to sit, stay, and come. These dogs must master all these commands both on and off the leash.

Once basics are established, the dog will begin training for basic tasks that they are going to be assigned. While learning their task is important, they must be socialized and ready to focus. Many times, they are being trained to obey commands while having to intermingle with people and other dogs

Many police departments purchase a dog that has already been trained. All they will have to do is to learn the commands from their new handler. Even though a dog has been trained to do their task, their training never stops. These dogs are constantly in training when not at work so that they are ready for whenever the time comes that they are needed to save a life.

Types of Police Dogs

There are many different types of police dogs, and each type has to have a different type of training. 

Police Patrol

Most police patrol dogs are German Shepherds or Malinois. Police patrol dog uses specific German words to train the dogs for certain behaviors. These dogs serve as an additional unit alongside their human counterparts.

Police patrol dogs are trained with people padded suits and their handlers using German words to give them commands. These dogs learn to apprehend perpetrators using targeted behavior and commands from certain human helpers. Contrary to popular belief, many of these dogs can respond to more than one helper. Patrol dogs may also receive drug training in order to help locate narcotics.

Drug Detection Dogs

A drug detection dogis very important to help stop the movement of illegal drugs. These dogs are often seen in airport customs areas, on border patrol, or in shipping yards. These dogs are trained with certain scents associated with drug transportation. They learn to sniff out multiple different types of drugs. They are also trained to sniff out certain materials associated with drugs, and this used to hide the scent of illegal drugs. Certain breeds of dogs are used to detect specific scents where some are trained to detect multiple different scents.

Bomb Detection Dogs

Bomb detection dogs are much like drug dogs in that they are trained to detect a certain scent. There are over 10,000 scents to learn in association with bomb detection, and a bomb detection dog must be trained to detect these amongst the millions of others scents in their day-to-day lives.  Bomb detection dog training takes place over a private ten-week course. This is a very intensive and in-depth course that these dogs go thru.

Search and Rescue 

Search and rescue is a large part of police work. If a person has been kidnapped, missing, or has gotten lost in the woods, these dogs are great at helping find them. These dogs can be trained to use that person’s scent to find them or their remains. They can be trained to search through rubble after a disaster. They can quickly search in a forest or in an avalanche. They can even find drowning victims underwater. Their ability to cover such a large area in such a short amount of time makes these dogs crucial when looking for a victim.

Extra Training tips

If you are training a dog to be a police dog, consistency is key. Make sure that you have a plan and stick to it. The training for these types of dogs needs to be fun. Most professional dog trainers use tricks like obstacle courses and games to teach the dog different scents and behaviors. Challenges and training games help ingrained command words into the dog’s vocabulary.

Police dogs are always learning and training. They even live with their handler to help strengthen the bond. Sometimes this training can be done at home, but many times will need the help of a professional dog trainer. By taking the time to train your police dog, your dog will always be ready when you need them to save the day.

Meet The Author 

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM


Since she was a little girl, Dr. Ochoa knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals, she is now a great source of knowledge for others. Dr. Ochoa lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies: Ruby the Schnoodle and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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