K9 dog training: How police dogs are trained for duty
While dogs serve people in a variety of ways around the world, some of the most visible service dogs are police dogs. K9 dogs handle many jobs including protecting the dog owner, sniffing out drugs or bombs and patrolling sensitive areas.
Each job requires different skill sets and thus a different type of training.
K9 police dog training
K9 police dog training starts when the dog is still a young puppy. Certain breeds of dogs such as German Shepherds or Malinois are genetically wired for protection and patrolling tasks, while Labradors and Bloodhounds are naturally more talented for tasks such as searching and detection of certain goods (drugs, bombs,…).
By choosing the right breed and using his naturally inbred talents, you’ve already taken one right step to successful K9 dog training.
The personality of the puppy is another factor to take into account when choosing a dog to train as a police dog. Police dogs must be alert, calm, obedient and smart. They cannot be shy or anxious because those traits at best will make them less capable and at worst, make them dangerous.
Obedience training and socialization
Once a puppy is chosen, then decent obedience training and socialization is critical. Those basic foundational aspects have to be firmly in place when the puppy is growing is. The puppy must be able to sit, stay, come and go down on command, both when on-leash and off-leash.
Continuous testing and evaluations
At each step of K9 dog training, the puppy will be evaluated to see if it has passed the test. If he does not pass, then he won’t move forward into the full training program.
That full training program includes a wide variety of tests in numerous different situations. Dogs must be able to perform their duties under stress, in loud chaotic environments and sometimes with minimum guidance. Therefore, their training involves simulations that are done over and over and over again. Guns are fired, fake bad boys start running away as if trying to escape, doors are banged and cars are screeched, similar to scenes that you see happening in action movies!
Keeping things fun
As with any dog training, the training sessions for K9 dogs are made as fun as possible, so that all this important preparatory work for his often hazardous job is experienced as a game by the dog. Fun training keeps the dog from losing interest or from getting burned out.
Police dogs who are assigned tasks that mainly require the use of their unique scenting skills, such as those who have to track suspects or search for drugs or bombs, will receive specialized training targeted at helping them to differentiate the substances which they have to track. For instance, dogs used by anti-narcotics departments have to be able to distinguish between the smell of cocaine and the smell of French fries and burgers.
Purchased police dogs
Often, police departments purchase dogs who are already trained. In such cases, the training will firstly be focused on bonding with the dog with its new master.
The dog’s master has to be trained to understand the dog’s earlier acquired knowledge and the dog must be adjusted where necessary so he knows how to take commands from this new master.
Training for police dogs never stops. When they are not actually on patrol, they are training all the time, so they are constantly ready for that day when their special skills will be needed. The dogs generally live with their masters, so their partnership is continually forged. Over and over again, this bond and in-depth training has shown incredible results when a police dog hunts down a suspect, finds a bomb in a public area or saves his partner’s life with his specialized skills and innate knowledge.