Police officers have an exciting and important job, but most of the time, they don’t work by themselves. And some lucky officers have a special kind of partner — a police dog.

Sniffing out crime

Police departments use dogs to help them because dogs have special skills humans don’t have — mainly their sense of smell. A dog can sniff an object that belongs to a person and then tell their human partners whether that person is or was in an area, all from smell! Other dogs are trained to know the smell of dangerous things like drugs or explosive devices, and they know how to alert humans when they find something wrong. Some police dogs also know how to find a suspect and keep them from going anywhere while they wait for the human police to arrive.

What it takes

Because of the special skills they need, only some types of dogs make great police dogs. German shepherds make very good police dogs because they are smart, tough and have a good sense of smell. Bloodhounds, basset hounds and Labrador retrievers also make good police dogs.

Both people and dogs must be properly trained before a dog can join a police department. The handler (that’s the person who takes the dog around) must be confident enough to tell the dog what to do, and the dog must be able to obey the handler without any hesitation.

Police life

Police dogs, who are trained as puppies, usually live with their human partners and their families. But just like people, the dogs eventually retire from their jobs, usually after 4-6 years. Most of the time, the dogs continue to stay in their houses and become pets, enjoying a relaxing life with the family they’ve always known.


Activity: Train your dog

Do you think your dog would be a good police dog? Does it come when you call and listen when you tell it to leave something alone? If you think you’d like to try being a dog handler, start by teaching your dog this simple trick: sit.

You’ll need lots of treats. Some people give dogs pieces of hot dog, while others prefer to just give the dog tiny bits of the kibble they already eat. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something safe for dogs to eat and small pieces. Training can take a long time, and you don’t want your dog to get too full!

Start by holding a treat out in front of your dog’s nose so he knows it’s for him, but don’t let him take it. Move the treat backward so eventually it’s behind his head. As you do this, tell him, “sit.” Most dogs will naturally sit down as they see the treat move backwards. When the dog sits, tell him, “good sit” and give him the treat. The treat will let him know he’s done what you’ve asked.

Eventually, your dog will be able to sit without something to eat. Sometimes, a pat on the head can be just as much of a treat to a dog as a yummy snack.