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Why Are German Shepherds Used as Police Dogs?

When we think of a police dog, a German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is the first that comes to mind for most of us. These dogs are inexorably connected to the image of what a police dog should be, and the breed is ubiquitous as service dogs all over the world. By why is this? What is so special about German Shepherds?

For one thing, GSDs are among the most intelligent dogs in the world, making them easy to train and highly loyal and trustworthy. They are also powerful, formidable animals that are calm under pressure and not overly aggressive, making them the perfect police partner. In this article, we dive a little deeper into the reasons that GSDs are such good police animals. Let’s get started!

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What are the qualities of a good police dog?

There are certain personality traits that a dog needs to possess to be a successful police dog, and learning what these are will help you understand why German Shepherds are so widely used by police. In the past, police used various breeds for police work, but these have been narrowed down to the German Shepherd as the breed of choice, along with the Belgian Malinois occasionally. But what exactly makes a good police dog?

Police dogs need to have the following traits, which German Shepherds have in abundance:
  • Highly intelligent
  • Eager to please
  • Courageous
  • Protective
  • Athletic and agile
  • Powerful
  • Great sense of smell
  • Obedient
  • Loyal
alert police dog
Image Credit: NSC Photography, Shutterstock

What are the roles of a police dog?

Those traits are important for police dogs because of the various roles that they are needed for. The roles of police dogs are always growing and evolving, and this is another reason that GSDs are the perfect dogs for the job, as they are adaptable and easily trainable.

With that in mind, there are four main roles of police dogs:
  • Search and rescue. In this capacity, police dogs are used to search for criminal suspects or missing persons. They are also used in rescue situations, where they are used for their amazing sense of smell, helping locate victims of earthquakes, lost or missing persons, and victims of fallen buildings.
  • Detection dogs are used for their powerful olfactory abilities to sniff out drugs, firearms, or explosives carried by suspects, as well as other illegal objects, like exotic animals or accelerants used in arson.
  • Cadaver dogs. These dogs can detect the odor of dead bodies. GSDs have such a powerful sense of smell that they can sniff bodies under piles of rubble or even underwater.
  • These dogs are used for the general protection of the public to track down and apprehend criminals, rescue hostages, and locate crime suspects. Police dogs are trained to bite down on suspects and hold them hostage while officers arrest them.
german shepherd running outside with tongue out
Image Credit: Vilve Roosioks, Pixabay

Police dog training

Typically, police dogs need at least a year of training before they’re ready for deployment. With the average cost of a puppy used for police work as high as $2,500, along with the cost of a year’s worth of training, it can be an expensive undertaking. This is another reason that GSDs are so suited for the job: They are adaptable dogs that can be trained to do just about anything, making their success rate in training higher than most other breeds.

Police dogs go through a variety of different training, from agility to endurance, because they must be able to hike for miles at a time and jump over walls or climb long flights of stairs. Of course, basic command training and obedience are vital because they must obey their handler without any hesitation, every time.

After these basic training methods, most police dogs will receive specialty training. This could be for drug or bomb detection, tracking missing persons, or apprehension training.

Malinois dog and two German Shepherd dogs on duty with officers
Image Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV, Shutterstock

Other popular police dog breeds

Due to their supreme adaptability and trainability, German Shepherds are the go-to choices as police dogs for most situations. Of course, some dogs are not as much of a generalist as the GSD and are trained for specific purposes. This could be for their superior sense of smell, their speed or power, or simply their intelligence.

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Conclusion

German Shepherds are among the most commonly used breeds for police work, and with their adaptability, intelligence, and loyalty, it’s easy to see why. While some other dogs also make great police dogs, they are used more for specific jobs. This is why German Shepherds are the most widely used, as they are supremely adaptable and can be used for such a wide variety of jobs.

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Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock