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Human law enforcement officers need to be a special type of person, and police dogs must be a special type of dog. These impressive animals come from generations of dogs specifically bred to perform the complicated tasks that police dogs are required to accomplish. Generally speaking, this isn’t something all dogs are able to do. That’s why just a few specific breeds are usually trained as police dogs.

Popular Police Dog Breeds

The following breeds are popular choices to be trained as police dogs:

These breeds are known for their incredible working ability, their desire to cooperate with their handlers, and, in some cases, their tenacity in fighting criminals. Some police dogs are single-purpose, meaning they have one task they perform. Others are dual-purpose, meaning they’re trained to perform a variety of tasks. But what exactly do police dogs do?

German Shepherd Dog police dog standing in a police cruiser seat.
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Perhaps the most popular discipline of the police dog is suspect apprehension. Police dogs are trained to bite dangerous suspects and hold them hostage. In many situations, they’re the first ones to put their lives on the line and go in against an armed suspect to protect their human partners. Most apprehension dogs are Herding breeds, such as the Belgian Malinois, German Shepherd Dogs, and Dutch Shepherds. For hundreds of years, herding breeds were bred to have the physical strength and intelligence necessary to herd livestock. These qualities are also necessary to restrain a dangerous person. That said, they must be stable dogs. Plus, they must possess the ability to know when someone is a threat and act solely on the command of their handlers.


It’s no secret that dogs have an amazing sense of smell. Dogs have 225 million scent receptors in their noses (compared to a human’s 5 million), and we use this ability of theirs to our advantage when fighting crime. When it comes to criminal activity, dogs can often detect various drugs, explosives, accelerants (when investigating arson), and other crime scene evidence. The dogs are able to perform their tasks anywhere and are most commonly searching airports and border entries for explosives and illegal drugs, large events for explosives, and even civilian vehicles that have been pulled over. Many military dogs can also detect landmines, in order to protect their handlers and personnel from danger.

German Shepherd Dog sniffing open luggage at the airport.
©Monika Wisniewska -

Search and Rescue

A large part of police work is searching for lost victims, whether it’s someone who was kidnapped or a missing person. In the case of search and rescue, dogs can be trained to find living victims and the remains of deceased humans. They’re able to search through rubble after a devastating explosion, earthquake, or other disaster. They’re able to cover miles and miles of forest looking for a lost hiker or someone buried after an avalanche. Some can even locate the bodies of drowned victims underwater in oceans and lakes. The ability of dogs to cover large areas in a relatively short period of time provides a great resource when looking for victims. Although human searchers play an irreplaceable role, search and rescue dogs are able to get the job done with unique precision.

Related article: Police K-9 Hummer Awarded for Incredible Searching Skills
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Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

This program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title.
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