Frequently Asked Questions

Can I donate or gift my dog to the National Police Dog Foundation to be a police dog?2016-12-13T11:11:37-08:00

Although we help fund law enforcement agencies with K-9 purchasing, training, and medical needs through retirement, we do not place dogs with agencies. Our experience shows that most law enforcement K-9 units do not accept dogs from the public. However, we do suggest that you contact your local volunteer K-9 Search and Rescue groups to see if they may have a need.

How does a police agency purchase a police dog?2016-12-13T08:34:09-08:00

Many police agencies do not have a budget for police dogs, so they are purchased by public and/or corporate donations. Agencies may also need donations to pay for the dog’s training, as well as veterinary bills, daily food and training equipment.

Why are K-9s not part of a department’s regular budget items?2016-08-25T15:18:28-08:00

K-9s are considered a specialty unit, which means technically they could run a department without them, unlike police cars, police officers, and their training. 80-plus percent of a police department’s budget goes toward salary, and the remaining 20 percent is needed to acquire equipment and training for the officers. There are simply not enough funds for most agencies to include the cost of K-9s and their up-keep in the general budget.

What do police dogs eat?2016-12-13T08:34:57-08:00

Unlike the average family pet, a police service dog is extremely active and requires a diet formulated to meet its increased energy and nutrient demands.

What happens if the handler gets out of the program before the dog is ready to retire?2016-08-25T15:17:50-08:00

Depending on the dog’s age, the dog might be re-trained with a new handler or be given to its original handler if age and circumstances permit.

What does “K-9” stand for?2016-08-25T15:17:32-08:00

It is short for the species “canine”, or dog. When it is on the side of a police car it means the police car carries a working police service dog.

What breeds do they use for police dogs?2016-08-25T15:17:13-08:00

The most popular breeds are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, and occasionally mixes of these breeds. Less popular, but still used at times, are Rottweilers, Doberman Pinchers, and Bouvier de Flandres. Other breeds are used for detection work, if this is their sole purpose.

Are there black German Shepherds?2016-08-25T15:16:46-08:00

Yes, but the color and coat of a German Shepherd varies. They may have long hair or short; they may be solid black, sable (a mixture of grey and black color), black and tan or red, or mostly black with a few tan marking on their legs. All of these marking and coat types are normal for the German Shepherd.

Why are some Malinois so thin?2016-08-25T15:16:24-08:00

The Malinois is genetically a more slender build and a very active breed. For this reason their body is constantly burning calories. Bred to be extreme athletes, they typically have very little body fat. In addition, they can have a very short coat that gives them an even sleeker appearance.

What other breeds do police agencies use?2016-08-25T15:16:06-08:00

Labrador Retrievers are often used for narcotics and explosives detection, and evidence discovery, as well as for Search and Rescue functions. Bloodhounds are used for trailing, and many mixed breeds can be used for detection and scent work as well.

Do they use only males, or do they also use females for police service dogs?2016-08-25T15:15:25-08:00

Males and females both make excellent police service dogs.

Do you neuter and/or spay police dogs?2016-08-25T15:14:56-08:00

Females are normally always spayed because of their heat cycles and for medical benefits. Males may also often be neutered for medical or behavioral reasons.

What age does a dog begin working as a police dog?2016-08-25T15:14:37-08:00

The youngest age when they become mature enough to concentrate on training well is between 12 and 15 months.

What age does the dog retire?2016-08-25T15:14:18-08:00

Depending on its health status it is normally around 10 years of age.

Where does the dog go after he/she finishes a police career?2016-08-25T15:13:58-08:00

It lives at home with its handler to live out its life as a family pet.

Can they go on vacations with their handler and family while working as a service dog?2016-08-25T15:13:40-08:00

This depends on department policy, but normally the answer is yes.

Do police dogs live in the house or a kennel?2016-12-13T08:14:37-08:00

Normally after working a full shift they go to their kennel where they eat and get the much needed sleep and rest they will need for their next shift. However, it is not uncommon for them to come in the house on their days off, or even daily before or after their shift begins.

How much does a police dog cost?2016-08-25T15:12:50-08:00

It varies, but because most police dogs are still coming from Europe, the cost for the dog alone, including airfare, is $8,000.00 and climbing.

Do all police dogs come from Europe?2016-12-13T08:15:17-08:00

No! American breeders have been importing quality dogs from Europe for many years which is allowing America to produce the same excellence in bloodlines as in Europe. If this practice continues, we will lessen our dependency on importing dogs from Europe.

How much does the training cost?2016-08-25T15:12:00-08:00

For full training in Patrol Work, Detection, and Hard Surface (Urban) Tracking, you can figure the cost to range from $12,000.00 to $15,000.00 total, per dog, depending on the length of each class.

What type of training do they receive?2016-08-25T15:10:43-08:00

Patrol training (which includes obedience, agility, tracking, evidence searches, open area and building searches), and narcotics or explosives detection are the most common areas of training, although service dogs can also be trained to help find dead bodies, lost children, and the sick or elderly. In addition, scent discrimination training is being used to help match a potential suspect to an object such as a weapon used in a crime.

What does a police dog trained to find explosives do when he/she finds it?2017-03-11T16:40:32-08:00

The alert is passive, which means the dog will tell it’s handler that it smells an explosive component by either sitting or laying down as close to the object as possible.

How can people help?2017-03-11T16:40:32-08:00

The National Police Dog Foundation is always taking applications for volunteers. We need help in every area of fund raising. If you, or someone you know, would like to help you can begin by becoming a member or making a donation. Without your support, K-9 programs run the risk of being eliminated whenever departments are in financial distress. Also, without the assistance of programs like NPDF, working and retired police dogs are at risk for shorter and less comfortable lives because the costs of their medical care can be a heavy burden, especially in these tough economic times. After a long life of dedicated service to our communities, their physical comfort is well-earned and deserved.

About K-9s:
A police dog, also known as K-9 or K9 (a homophone of canine), is a dog specifically trained to assist members of law enforcement. Dogs have been used in law enforcement since the Middle Ages. They have a variety of duties, ranging from protecting their handlers to searching for drugs and missing people. The most common breeds are German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, but other K-9 breeds have some unique talents. Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, and Labrador Retrievers, for example, are known for their tracking and location skills. Used as a means of law enforcement widely across the United States, Police K-9s serve in the force for 6-9 years. In many countries, the intentional injuring or killing of a police dog is a criminal offense.

Police Departments demand that a dog must first pass a basic obedience training course. The dogs must be able to respond and obey the commands of their handler without hesitation. This allows the officer to have complete control over how much force the dog should use against a suspect. It is not uncommon for handlers using dogs trained in Europe to use training commands from the country of origin, rather than retraining the dog to new commands. This is contrary to the popular belief that Police Dogs are trained in a different language so that a suspect cannot command the dog against the officer.

Dogs used in law enforcement are trained to either be “single purpose” or “dual purpose”. Single purpose dogs are used primarily for backup, personal protection, and tracking. Dual purpose dogs do everything that single purpose dogs do and also detect either explosives or narcotics. In the United States when a narcotics K-9 indicates to its handler that it found something, the officer has reasonable suspicion to search whatever the dog alerted on (i.e. bag or vehicle) without a warrant.

There are four main uses of police K-9s:
– Sentry and Apprehension: These dogs are used to provide security in sensitive or controlled areas, and for locating and apprehension of a suspect
– Search and Rescue (SAR): These dogs are used to locate suspects and missing people and objects
– Detection OR Explosives: Dogs are used to detect illegal substances OR to detect explosives. Note it is either one or the other.
– Arson: These dogs are used to detect if the possible cause of a fire was arson.

The two most common breeds of K-9s are:
German Shepherds are a breed of working dogs originally from Germany. First developed for herding sheep, these shepherds are now the preferred breed for military and police roles. They are medium-large size dogs with a two-layer coat, usually black and tan or red. German Shepherds were specifically bred for their intelligence, able to learn and interpret more efficiently than other dog breeds. They are characterized by a willingness to learn and a unique curiosity perfect for search missions. German Shepherds are also known for being highly protective, both of their family and their owners.

The Belgian Malinois is a medium-large working dog in the sheepdog family. Often confused for German Shepherds, they are slightly smaller, with more triangular ears. They are usually fawn-colored, red, or brown, often with a black mask and ears. Belgian Malinois dogs are known for being active, friendly, and hard working. One of the most energetic dog breeds, they are known for being easy to train, due to their high prey drive. In fact, the United States Secret Service uses Belgian Malinois to guard the grounds at the White House.

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