Police Dog Training
Police dog training with American Pit Bull Terriers is now a common practice amongst law enforcement. While some choose to use this breeds determination and strength for criminal actives, law enforcement uses this dog’s abilities for positive reasons.
Police departments use a number of different breeds of dogs for police dog training.
Shown to the left is an officer working with an American Pit Bull Terrier.
Contrary to some of the negative stereotypes that surround this breed, these dogs make very stable and trustworthy police dogs.
Their drive to please along with their “Never give up” attitude couldn’t be better for task such as search and rescue, criminal pursuit, as well as protection work.
Introduction to police dog training:
No one is quite sure when humans first domesticated dogs, but one thing is certain, dogs and people have been working side by side for thousands of years. Modern training methods have led to dogs becoming an integral part of many people’s lives, not just as companions, but also as guide dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, and bomb- or drug-sniffing dogs.
But few dogs are asked to give as much of themselves as police dogs. A police dog, often referred to as a K9 (which is a homophone of canine) in some areas, is a dog that is trained specifically to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in their work.
One commonly used breed is the German Shepherd, although now Belgian Malinois are popular dogs to use for police dog training.
Today, police forces in most major cities use police dogs to track criminals, sniff out illegal materials, search buildings, and do other jobs human police officers can’t do as well as a dog can. Not only are there thousands of police dogs on the job on any given day, but there are also hundreds of police dogs who have given their lives to protect and serve.
In many jurisdictions the intentional injuring or killing of a police dog is a felony, subjecting the perpetrator to harsher penalties than those in the statutes embodied in local animal cruelty laws, just as an assault on a human police officer is often a more serious offense than the same assault on a non-officer.
A growing number of law-enforcement organizations outfit dogs with ballistic vests, and some make the dog’s sworn officers, with their own police badges and IDs. Furthermore, a police dog killed in the line of duty is often given a full police funeral.
Instructions to police dog training:
Choose the right puppy. Choosing the right puppy is the most important step in police dog training. Monitor two or three selected puppies (usually German Shepherds) for the first five to six months of their lives. Train them just as you would any other dog with obedience and general training.
Also subject them to loud noises, starting out soft and getting louder and louder during police dog training. This will prepare them for the sound of guns later on. At the end of this common training, one puppy will probably stand out above the rest being comfortable and secure. That is the puppy you should choose for police dog training.
Be a consistent handler. Working with a dog usually revolves around a few basic rules, and one of them is consistency. This is very important with police dog training. If you are the dog’s handler then it should always be you. No one else should ever step in.
The dog has to learn to trust you and always report to you. This will form a bond which is very important in this line of work and type of training. Your police dog will always look to you for approval and that is essential. If another person must step in, make sure they stick to all of the same training techniques.
Choose a specialty. Working police dogs usually have a specialty. If your dog will have a specialty, you will want to start introducing it as early as six months. As an example, say your dog will be used for tracking missing persons or criminals.
Chances are you may have a Labrador, Bloodhound, or German Shepherd, and they will already have a lot of bred-in instinct. Feed off of these instincts in order to train the dog. You’ll be doing a series of hide-and-find exercises every day. The idea is simple. Allow the dog to smell something that has touched the human it is to find, and then allow them to lead you until it finds the person.
Using a muzzle is a common and efficient way of training a police dog. They are not used for every kind of training, however, but mainly for dogs that may be required to attack someone they are pursuing. Particularly, the agitation muzzle is the best choice for training. It is used when you are training your dog to become aggressive towards a person. They allow the dog motion in their head and neck and still allow them to eat and drink while training. This lets the dog exercise their bite reflex so they know what the training is meant to teach. These muzzles are humane and safe for the dog.
Training a dog, especially a police dog, is a never-ending process. Even after the dog is five or six years of age and has a lot of experience under its belt, you should still be holding short training sessions with it every other month or so. This will keep the dog’s senses and skills sharp. It will stay tuned to you and what you want from it. This is important for your happiness and the dog’s happiness. This is especially true if a new handler comes into the picture. You will need to work with the dog and the new handler until they are comfortable with one another and are familiar with each other completely.
Every dog and has to undergo extensive training. The general patrol dogs (German Shepherds) have to complete a twelve week course with its handler at a police dog training school. This training involves basic skills, obedience and agility exercises. If this course is successfully completed, the dog and handler will be able to start patrol work.
The 12 week course is for all general patrol dogs, regardless of their handlers’ experience. The ultimate aim of police dog training is that a dog will react in the same way each time it hears a certain command or sees a visual sign from the handler. To obtain this degree of response from the dog, the handler must be consistent in commands and manner.
Training is very much reward based, be it physically, verbally or with food. Each handler must find out what works best for his own dog and apply it in such a manner as to suit his particular dog. Once the dog finally becomes operational, similar techniques are employed on the job. Handlers use a ‘trigger’, such as a hand signal or voice command to let the dog know it is time to work.
The 12 week course covers the principles of tracking, searching for people and property, obedience training and criminal work. At the end, there is an assessment to decide whether the dogs are qualified to go into operational work.
Continuous assessment is very much a part of dog policing. The dogs also have to pass a Home Office inspection once a year to ensure they are safe and effective, and can carry out the tasks expected of them. Also, to ensure the dogs are fully trained, both dog and handler have to attend regular training days and local refresher courses. The aims of these courses are to continually learn new skills and improve those already learned on the initial course.
Behavior of K9 during police dog training:
No matter how well-trained in suspect apprehension a police dog might be, all police dogs can easily make behavioral mistakes, such as attacking at the wrong time, attacking out of context, attacking a suspect when not commanded to do so, and failing to stop an attack after being commanded to do so by the handler. Because of the behavioral nature of aggressive responding in dogs, and despite the extensive training most police service dogs have been subjected to prior to being deployed in the field, they will make behavioral mistakes, thereby causing injury to a victim that was uncalled for or far beyond what was probably needed.
The basic principles of animal behavior that govern police dog aggressive behavior are no different than the principles that govern aggressive behavioral responding in other kind of dogs (e.g. working dogs, sled dogs, pit bulls, fighting dogs, companion dogs, etc.), and these principles can be used to shed light on the inherently dangerous and occasionally unpredictable nature of attack trained police dogs.