Known for their ability to apprehend a subject or search scents undetected by a human nose, dogs have been used for centuries in many protection and detection capacities, but are were first used by American police in riot control during the Vietnam War. Considered a part of the police force, police dogs are awarded medals and sometimes, as in the case of Miami Police Department's dog “Brit,” given full police funerals.
Police dogs are trained to assist a handler in tasks that include finding, intimidating or apprehending a criminal. Dogs working with the police to locate certain scents are deemed “detection dogs,” and are further trained in the detection of bombs, narcotics, explosives, firearms or specific scents. Detection and police dogs are both used by various enforcement departments, such as customs offices, counter terrorism units and local, national and state forces.
According to the website CanineBreeds, breeds used as police dogs or detection dogs include Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Belgian, German or Dutch Shepherd Dogs, Akitas and Bouvier des Flandres. German Shepherds were the first dogs used by police departments, and they were successful in apprehending suspects during American riots of the 1960s.
The first people to use dogs for guarding included Persians, Greeks, Assyrians and Babylonians, who used dogs for protection or war tactics as early as 5th century B.C. After the fall of Rome, the Spanish Conquistadors resumed the use of dogs as protectors, and by 1610, the British colonists of Jamestown were using dogs in anti-Indian measures, specifically in the search and seizing of American natives. In 1840, Benjamin Franklin passed a measure to use dogs against the ongoing war with Seminole Indians in Florida, and they were later used to search and seize runaway slaves.
Seizing a Suspect
According to the K9 Global Training Academy's website, a police dog trained to seize a suspect will bite down with both the upper and lower incisors when apprehending a suspect, which can cause flesh to be removed by the dog's canine teeth. Wounds and scarring will usually occur when a police dog attacks, with infection possible if the wound is not treated. The website further states that no other type of weapon can perform the functions of a police dog, but police dog handlers must be highly trained in controlling their animal.
Famous Police Dogs
Police dogs are often awarded various medals and ceremonies for their work in the field. “Tracker,” a 10-year old German Shepherd working for the Ontario Provincial Police, was awarded for over 500 searches at the time of his retirement. “Lance,” another Ontario Provincial Police dog, tracked down a missing woman in swampland for three hours before leading her home to safety. Known for his work as a rescue dog in the Oklahoma City bombings, the police dog “Pascha” also helped victims after the Earthquake in Kobe, Japan and Hurricane Opal victims in Panama City, Florida.