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Guide to the Police Dog Unit

Guide to the Police Dog Unit

Guide to the Police Dog Unit

Police dog handlers work closely with police dogs and conduct various duties within their role. This includes tasks such as searching for missing people, tracking down criminals, confronting dangerous criminals and controlling crowds. Police dogs are loyal and powerful animals that live with the dog handler and accompany them in the van on every shift. 

Police officer with black police dog in field

Role of a Police dog handler

A dog handler has a busy job and is called to all sorts of Police work. The role of the police dog handler is extremely varied and not limited to conducting searches using the dog to find missing people, assisting with arrests, and supporting investigations.  It can also be the responsibility of the dog handler to help control dangerous dogs which are out of control.

The responsibility for training the dog is part of the dog handlers’ job as well as maintaining the dog’s health and welfare, enabling it to perform its duties effectively. 

How do you become a police dog handler?

To become a dog handler you must pass your two years of Police probation, you can then apply for transfer to the dog unit. Entry to the police dog unit is very competitive, and there is often a waiting list. Once your application has been successful you will spend a few weeks completing specialist training using your allocated dog, building a bond and learning essential skills. If you have experience in handling larger breads of dogs you will have a better chance of being accepted into the dog unit.

What are the different police dog roles?

The dogs that are used by the police are trained specially to assist police officers in enforcing the law. There are several jobs that police dogs can assist with which include search and rescue, location of suspects and finding missing people, and drug, explosives, blood and firearms detection. Regardless of the specific job that the dog is doing there is a lot of training required, and they need to be ready to assist. The dog handler is responsible for ensuring that the dogs undergo regular training and maintain high standards so that they are always ready to take on tasks. The police dog is transported around in a Police Van, during the shift, ensuring the safety of the dog and handler.

What are the police dog breeds?

There are a variety of dog breeds that are used by the police for the various jobs that they do. The preferred breed for police dogs is German Shepherds due to their versatility, high energy levels and that they rarely tire. German shepherds are easily trained, and they are very intelligent and can quickly pick up commands. The other popular breeds of dog for police dogs are Belgian Malinois, Labrador Retriever, Bloodhounds, Belgian Shepherds, Doberman Pinscher, German Shorthaired Pointer and Rottweiler.

What Are The Types of Police Dogs? 

The Police have different types of dogs for different roles. Generally, the German Shepard would take the role of a General purpose dog, it is an all-rounder, where it can track people and also be aggressive to intimidate. The Police also have specialist dogs for searching for drugs, money, blood, explosives and firearms, these dogs are generally Springer Spaniels as they have an exceptional smell.

Police in riot gear with Police dog


Do police dogs get paid in the UK?

Police dogs do not get paid in the UK. The dog handlers receive a higher rate of pay to cover the expenses, including food, shelter, veterinary care and incidental expenses. 

Do police dogs go home with their handlers? 

Police dogs go home with their handler after work and travel with the police officer in the van during every shift.  Dog handlers and police dogs form a strong bond quickly.  

What age do police dogs retire?

Most police dogs will retire at around 7 or 8 years of age. There are some police dogs that can work up until 10 years of age.  Once a police dog retires it will live with the dog handler as a family pet for the rest of its life, even if the handler gets a new dog. In some circumstances, the handler is unable to care for the dog and in these cases, it would be placed into a caring home. Unfortunately, retired police dogs do not receive any financial support and pet insurance is not available for them due to the nature of their working life. 

Do police dogs get neutered?

Police dogs do not get neutered which can assist with them staying keen to work. Dog handlers feel that the dogs become less energetic when they are neutered. Although police dogs are not neutered, they will be if required for medical reasons, as it can cause damage to their hormonal production.  

How long do police dogs live?

The breeds that are used as police dogs live until between 11 and 14 years of age. The age that the dog will live to will depend on the breed and its general health status. Once a police dog has retired in most cases it will stay with the handler and live the remainder of its life as a family pet. 

Do police dogs live with their handlers?

Police dogs live with their handlers at their home. They are given an allowance to help look after the dog too.

At what age do police dogs retire?

It is common for police dogs to retire at about 8 years of age however some dogs can manage to work until they are 10 years of age. The retirement age of a police dog varies depending on the breed. 

Do police dogs have ranks?

Police dogs do not get given a rank in the UK.

What age do police dogs start?

Police dogs start their training at between 12 and 18 months. The training for a police dog takes about 13 weeks.  

What qualifications do you need to train police dogs?

Police dog trainers normally need to be educated to GCSE level with grades A to E in subjects including maths and English. Dog handling and training experience is also required to train police dogs. The dog handler and police dog need to do a high level of training so that a strong bond is formed as the handlers are responsible for ensuring the dog’s happiness. Police dog handlers must also know basic veterinary practices and canine psychology. 

What dogs do police use?

The preferred dog for Police to use is the German Shepard, but they use a wide range of dogs including labradors and springer spaniels.

How long does it take to train a police dog?

Training is generally 13 weeks which focuses on safety, control, and efficiency. The trainer includes the handler meeting their dog for the first time to build up a bond quickly. Numerous skills are taught including tracking, chasing, biting and searching.

What sniffer dogs do the Police use?

The Police generally use Springer Spaniels as their sniffer dogs. They can identify money, drugs, blood, explosives, firearms and much more.

Read our other department guides


Tom Brook

Tom Brook

I am a former Police Detective with years of knowledge and experience in investigating serious crimes across Scotland, working with communities and keeping the public safe. I aim to give back to the Policing community with this site!
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