How does a law enforcement k-9 unit work?


If you’re interested in police work, you might wonder how a law enforcement K-9 unit works.  What kind of canines are most commonly used in these units?  What are the dogs trained to do? This article will attempt to answer these and other questions.

The law enforcement K-9 unit is widely used throughout the United States. Local, federal, state and county agencies all use dogs to enhance their police duties. The Transportation Security Administration uses dogs to sniff out explosives and weapons at airports and other transportation hubs. Dogs are also used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Marshals Service.

Law enforcement K-9 unit dogs are used to detect drugs, bombs, weapons and cadavers. They are highly valued members of law enforcement teams and in many places there are stiff penalties for injuring or killing a police dog, just as there are stiff penalties for harming or killing a police officer.  Dogs are usually outfitted with bullet-proof vests and other protective gear. In some law enforcement K-9 units, the dogs are sworn in as officers and are issued police badges and IDs. Police dogs killed in the line of duty are often given a formal police funeral.

The most common breed of dog used in a law enforcement K-9 unit is the German Shepherd.  The Shepherd is valued for its intelligence, loyalty, protectiveness and fierceness.  The Belgian Malinois is also becoming an increasingly popular dog for police work.  Other dogs used in K-9 units are Dobermans, Labradors, Boxers and Rottweilers.

Small law enforcement K-9 units usually consist of one dog.  Police departments in large cities can have large K-9 units and many dogs. The most common use of dogs in cities is in drug detection.  Within large K-9 units, certain dogs are favored for certain uses and become specialized for things like detecting bombs, narcotics or attack.  K-9 units have regular shifts and the dogs have specific human partners who form a strong bond with them.

Dogs in a law enforcement K-9 unit go through obedience training as the first step of their police career. The next step is to undergo endurance and agility training because dogs must be in excellent shape.  The dogs must also be acclimated to the stresses of police work in order to remain calm in the face of duty. Specialty training includes learning how to detect drugs, weapons and explosives. Dogs are also used to track missing persons, suspects and cadavers.



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