Why Do Police Use German Shepherds

Why Do Police Use German Shepherds

Why do the police use German Shepherds?

The police force uses various dog breeds to help with its duties, including German Shepherds, Dutch ShepherdsGolden RetrieversDoberman PinschersPit BullsBeagles, and Rottweilers.

German Sherpherds are often favored as good police dogs because they are powerful animals and easy to train.

Their training is comprehensive, leading to their helping the police in many ways.

While in service, German Shepherd dogs add an extra set of skills that people don’t possess.

Speed, agility, sense of smell, and instinct all add to exceptional abilities that complement the police in doing their duties.

This breed and others make a valuable addition to enforcing law and order before they retire from service.

History of Police Use of German Shepherds And Other Dogs

History of Police Use of German Shepherds And Other Dogs

The police force has used the German Shepherd dog to help them perform their duties for more than a century.

Even though this breed’s history as police dogs got off to a shaky start, they have now become a permanent feature in law and order.

This timeline offers a clear snapshot of how police forces have used GSDs and other dogs for support.

  • 1888 – The first record of dogs being used to help the police is when the British attempted to track Jack the Ripper.  Bloodhounds were the first dog used for this task because of their keen sense of smell.
  • 1899 – The police began training dogs in Belgium, the first known country to establish a K9 training unit. The Belgian Malinois sheepdogs and wolfhounds were the first known breeds to form part of a police dog training program.
  • 1907 – Brigadier General Theodore A. Bingham was the Police Commissioner of New York in 1907. He appointed Inspector George R. Wakefield to travel to Ghent to study the Belgium K9 initiative. Wakefield brought five sheepdogs back to the U.S. to begin the country’s first breeding and training initiative.
  • 1910 – Glen Ridge in New Jersey tried to start their own K9 program by purchasing two sheepdogs from the NYPD. These dogs were meant to patrol the city but were later replaced by patrol cars. Public complaints also put an end to this program in the U.S. Simultaneously, Germany was using German Shepherds to assist in policing over 600 cities in that country.
  • 1911 – After unsatisfactory results in starting their own K9 unit, the NYPD chose to copy the Ghent training program. Copying this program involved training the dogs and their handlers. Again, their success was mixed as the dogs were trained to detain people on the streets from late evening to early morning. The dogs took people down, sat on them, and started barking to alert their handlers.
  • 1920 to 1940 – Because the police had a dubious start to their K9 efforts, not much happened over the next 20 years between World War I and World War II. The U.S. once again became interested in K9 policing after WWII, as law enforcement noted the successful use of dogs in England during the war and how private organizations managed to create efficient dog units.
  • 1938 – The South London police trained two Labrador Retrievers to patrol the streets with their handlers. This was one example that also encouraged the U.S. to re-establish dog training in the police force.
  • 1950 – Private security companies took the lead in training dogs to help protect commercial and other businesses during this decade.
  • 1954 – In Dearborn (MI), the Police Department then took the bold decision to employ a professional dog trainer, after seeing how effective security companies had become. Their trainer was an ex-marine who had specialized in dog training. He selected four German Shepherds to participate in his K9 training unit, which is the first known time that this breed was used in U.S. policing. Despite receiving excellent training, the dogs weren’t used much after intensive training. No incidents requiring their use were reported for six months after training. Dearborn gave up, and Portland (OR) bought the German Shepherds to start their own dog unit.
  • 1956 – A modern canine corps was finally established by the Police Department in Baltimore City (MD). Los Angeles created their own unit but found they had little use for the unit as they didn’t have many foot patrols.
  • 1959 – Baltimore’s canine corps was a fine example of an efficient unit, which encouraged other police departments to ask them for help. Many more K9 units were established from this year onwards, including by the Lancaster (PA) Police Department. Lancaster (PA) trained five dogs with their five volunteer handlers who agreed to be on standby for duty.
  • 1970 – From this decade that U.S. police began regular use of K9 units to support law enforcement efforts.

The history of the K9 unit is not always clear about what dog breeds were trained.

It is clear, though, that Belgian sheepdogs, wolfhounds, and German Shepherds formed part of the canine corps over time.

Various breeds have also been conscripted as Military Working Dogs (MWDs) over the past 100 years. Due to their trainability they make great military dogs capable of a variety of tasks.

Why Do The Police Use Dogs?

Why Do The Police Use Dogs?

German Shepherds and other dogs have been used to help law enforcement officers for decades.

Police Departments, the military, air force, security divisions, and other sectors worldwide use dogs for various tasks:

  • Supporting police officer safety
  • Catching and apprehending criminals on the run
  • Track prison escapees
  • Guarding people and property
  • Patrolling to maintain public law and order
  • Narcotic, accelerants, and other material detection
  • Cadaver dogs
  • Search and rescue dogs for missing persons
  • Guard dogs
  • Attack dogs
  • Entering small or difficult spaces where the police cannot maneuver quickly and safely.

Individual dogs are specifically selected for certain qualities that show they will do well in training. They then do training with their handlers for several months to become effective.

Members of the K9 units or canine corps worldwide claim how these animals support effective policing.

The dogs are willing to help their handlers. They enjoy working and the close companionship they share in teams, and they want to please their handlers.

Despite their effectiveness, some animal rights groups don’t think that dogs should work for the police force.

These groups often claim that dogs are commanded to use excessive force by their handlers when unnecessary. 

A lack of discipline in police force training may be also responsible for dogs biting innocent people.

Alternatively, circumstances or simply a dogs prey drive may lead to innocent people being bitten and admitted to hospitals.

Despite these dogs sometimes biting the wrong people, they remain a vital part of effective policing.

Dogs have accomplished great work for police departments for at least 70 years.

German Shepherds are often the preferred choice as police dogs because they are so efficient.

Why Are German Shepherds Used More Than Other Dogs?

Why Are German Shepherds Used More Than Other Dogs?

Police dogs are trained to perform many different duties. Because the German Shepherd is a natural herding dog and has historically been active in many safety and security areas, it has become a popular breed for policing.

This breed is seen patrolling city streets, keeping airport terminals safe, and is seen in subways.

They often work behind the scenes performing valuable duties, and their handlers rely on their support.

German Shepherds are valued for their relatively easy-going temperaments. They are intelligent animals that enjoy the structure of training.

This training gives the handler and the dog confidence in each other’s abilities. Great trust and bonds quickly develop between the two.

The use of this breed during the World Wars showed people that they enjoy training.

Their use as working dogs in extremely stressful environments also demonstrated that they could stay calm under pressure. 

German Shepherds are sociable, brave, and extremely loyal animals. They are also strong, agile, and fast. They were originally bred for herding and retain this characteristic.

They are also valued because they are vigilant and eager to serve. Above all, they respond well to training and commands from their handlers.

All these characteristics have been bred into the German Shepherd for a century, which is why they are often selected to work as police dogs.

The German Shepherd breed has received more Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) than any other breed.

Between 100 years of breeding and multiple awards, the German Shepherd repeatedly proves why it is one of the best all-around police and working dogs.

What Happens To Police Dogs After They Retire?

What Happens To Police Dogs After They Retire?

After proving why the police use German Shepherds so often, you might like to know what happens when these dogs retire.

German Shepherds usually enter public service once they are old enough to cope with training.

They are carefully selected to do training after a year to 15 months and stay in active service for about a decade.

How long they remain in service depends on their health and whether they have had any injuries while on duty.

Police dogs live in kennels where they sleep and eat. Handlers will often collect them before shifts or on their days off to spend time at their homes. When departments allow, dogs can go on vacations with their handlers.

After retiring from the police servicethe German Shepherd will become a pet and often lives with his handler. Because of the strong bonds that these two have developed, they find it difficult to live separate lives.

Obviously, personal circumstances may influence this happy arrangement, and some dogs may be given up for adoption to new dog owners.

Whichever the case, working German Shepherds ideally get to live out their lives in peace and comfort.

A Comprehensive History Of Why Police Use German Shepherds

Why do police use German Shepherds in the force? This and other dog breeds are born with certain characteristics that help the police protect and serve.

Whether it is catching a criminal on the run, tracking the scent of an escapee, or sniffing out drugs and bombs–German Shepherds make police work easier.

German Shepherds are often a first choice for the K9 unit or canine corps because they are easy to train.

Once they have done their civic duty, they get to retire and spend their days relaxing, which is exactly how it should be.


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