Dogs serve a vital role in our society. Most commonly, they’re added as a companion pet and treated as a valued member. They provide endless entertainment and activity for people of all ages. In other cases, dogs may also serve as therapy dogs or emotional support animals. In this role, they accompany their human with the focus on emotional or physical support.
Another more selective role that dogs serve is as a police dog. These dogs are trained from an early age to help police fulfill their very important role of protecting and caring for the community around them.
Police forces and other areas of the military have been using dogs as valuable assets as they work and serve. In fact, police dogs have been around for over 100 years. Their agility, ease of training, and confident personalities make them great fits for certain kinds of work, such as locating a person. You can find countless news stories and examples of how police dogs have been used to save the day in a potentially dangerous situation for police officers and communities.
What is a police dog and the average police dog lifespan? In this article, we will share what makes a good police dog breed and how long you can expect to keep them around in the K9 unit and where they go after they retire.
What Breeds Make Good Police Dogs?
Specific dog breeds are great at certain tasks. For instance, Golden Retrievers make great therapy or service dogs due to their calm demeanor and friendly personalities. Additionally, Terriers may make great tracking dogs, and Australian Shepherds enjoy herding animals.
There are also some dog breeds that do well as police dogs in the field of service and protection. Certain characteristics of some dog breeds make them well suited for this role of protecting and defending.
These dogs typically have fairly protective instincts and are very intelligent. They are considered very brave and fearless when it comes to addressing difficult situations.
Perhaps the first breed that comes to mind as an effective police dog is the German Shepherd. These dogs are strong, energetic, and protective when needed. Other breeds that may serve this role well include Dobermans, Pitbulls, and Rottweilers. While some of these breeds may be perceived as aggressive, they are also very intelligent and fulfill the role of protecting their handlers, their teams, and themselves in dangerous situations.
Police dog breeds also are known for their sense of smell and tracking skills. They are alert, attentive, and are committed to finding answers and people when put up for the task.
Other common Police dog breeds:
- Labrador Retriever
- Belgian Malinois
- Cane Corso
When do Police Dogs Start Training?
Like other service dogs and therapy dogs, dogs who are destined to join the K9 force in the police field are selected and trained from a very young age. By starting them off in behavioral and socialization training early, the police puppies may be more effective at learning and developing the behaviors that the police department is looking for.
Often, puppies can begin in the K9 unit as early as 12 months old. This ensures that they’re well-grown and are ready to take on new challenges. They are often selected and set on a path for training and preparing for their future service. Police puppies can begin training to join the force starting at just 7 or 8 weeks of age.
Once police dogs begin training, these dogs are typically assigned to a handler or a group of officers responsible for training the dog. This relationship between the handler and the police dog is close, as oftentimes there is a mutual dependency, especially in dangerous situations.
Police dogs often mature and grow in experience and wisdom as they encounter different situations. They may also improve in their agility and coordination over time. However, there comes a point when their speed may slow down, and they may not be as alert as they once were. Noticing this change in behavior as the dog ages is important as it may affect their effectiveness out on the force.
What is the Average Police Dog Lifespan?
Typically, police dogs are kept in the K9 force for about 8 years. This means that they start from when they are ready to join at about 12 months old until they are about 9 or 10 years old. When the dog is ready to retire, the timeframe is largely dependent on the dog, their behavior, and how intense of experiences they’ve had over their time.
What Happens to Police Dogs When They Retire?
After a police dog leaves the force, they are often well cared for in a home. As they enjoy their “retirement,” they’re not requested to sniff out drugs or attack perpetrators. Instead, they are loved and cared for as they rest, recover, and are thanked for their service. Often, this stage is in the context of the handler’s home, as they’ve certainly developed a strong relationship over the years.
Depending on the breed, police dogs will live to be anywhere between 10-15 years old. Their breed, trauma levels, and any health conditions influence their life expectancy. Often as police dogs, they can be given access to great health care and medication to help them live their best life until the end.
What Do Police Dogs Do?
Once they’re called to serve and begin training, police dogs participate in a variety of tasks that police navigate on a regular basis. With their impressive sense of smell, they work to sniff out hidden drugs and potentially explosive materials that can lead to some devastating outcomes. Dogs sniff these out and prevent those situations from arising.
Police dogs also are used to help search for and find people who are missing, again with their impressive smelling power. They use the scent of the individual’s personal belongings to track their scent and help the people be found. Also related to their sense of smell, police dogs also help to find evidence in a crime scene environment. They may be able to pick up on important clues and materials that people have overlooked or aren’t able to detect. This strong sense of smell is a skill that is extremely valuable for police and the military.
Another role that police dogs are trained to do is acting as a protector or aggressor when needed. These dogs can operate as attack dogs when their handlers or community is in danger. They can catch perpetrators and disarm them from causing further harm. While this task isn’t as common among police dogs, it’s an important function they play as they serve in the K-9 unit.
In all these tasks, their behavior and effectiveness come in how they are trained. These dogs aren’t raised to be family pets or therapy dogs. Instead, they are trained to follow certain verbal cues and hand gestures from their handler to carry out their very important functions.
Conclusion for “Police Dog Lifespan: How Long do They Serve and Live?”
Just like police officers, police dogs are dedicated to protecting and serving the community. Police dogs are started early in training and work full-time for about 8 or 9 years. They serve in a variety of essential functions and are relied upon for protection, insight, and helping communities be safer and better.
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