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K9 dogs are official police and military assistants that have a long history behind. “K9” is a homophone for “canine”. Law enforcement and military dogs serving in the K9 division search for drugs, explosives, lost people, crime scene evidence and also protect their owners. According to jurisdictions of many countries, injuring and killing a K9 dog on purpose is a felony subject to legal prosecution and incarceration.
K9 Dogs History
First recorded use of dogs serving as police assistants is dated back to early 14th century. In St. Malo, France, they guarded docks. Only in 1888 the modern police dog serving on purpose of law enforcement was first introduced to public. The London Metropolitan Police Force used two bloodhounds to track suspects during the investigation of atrocities committed by infamous Jack (the Ripper). The maniac was never caught but, this case propelled the use of dogs in investigations.
The United States did not have an official K9 program ling time. Even, during World War I, American troops had to exchange ammunition for trained dogs with English, French and Belgian troops. Although, the majority of all K9 dogs were and still the hound family’s, the most famous American War Dog named Stubby was a pit bull. Picked on the street in Hartford, Connecticut by Robert Conroy, the dog was taken to France; Stubby became the mascot for the 26th Yankee Division’s 102n Infantry. Mascot is one thing but, a dog working in the battlefield is another.
In 1942 the Quartermaster Corps started K-9 Corps and established a training facility at Front Royal Virginia. Additional facilities were established in Fort Robinson Nebraska, San Carlos California, Camp Rimini Montana and on the Cat Island off the coast of Mississippi. Marines had their center operating at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The Coast Guard started its facility on the East Coast. The K-9 program was so significant that, there was established a special facility for research of canine nutrition in order to develop army dog rations. During World War II dogs were used mainly as scouts and sentries and also made part of special War Dog Detachment. In 1943, one hundred dog teams were housed in Burma, China and India to support troops opposing Japanese militarists in Asian regions. During the war Fort Robinson was the largest K9 training center which remained active after the war while all other centers were closed.
After the war, almost all War Dog Programs were closed but, the 26th Scout Dog Platoon remained intact and moved from Front Royal Virginia to For Riley Kansas. In 1951 the whole program was transferred under the jurisdiction of the Military Police Corps. The remaining 26th platoon was the only active dog platoon serving in the Korean War. Dogs serving in the platoon were awarded three Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars for Valor and thirty five Bronze Stars for service. Of all dogs serving in the platoon, a scout dog York was the most outstanding “combatant”: accomplishing 148 patrols before the armistice was signed, presents a perfect example of a war dog.
During the Vietnam conflict in the sixties, the dogs were used to guard sophisticated weapons and Air Force jets. The Air Force used own Sentry Dog Training Facility’s “graduates” as the army failed to provide dogs for the need of Air Force. During the Vietnam War, Fort Benning Georgia served as the only dog training facility, both for marine and army dogs. Army deployed first dog squads in September 1965 under the command of the 18th Military Police Brigade. Sentry dogs guarding important air bases proved its worth, repelling attempts of infiltration organized by the Vietcong. The war escalated to an extent that the Army had to reactivate the scout dog program in 1965. Even, the Marines had to make a step towards canine fellows by agreeing with the Army to train dogs together. It was the first time since World War II that the Marines used dogs. Between 1965 and 1969, twenty-two dog army platoons and four marine dog platoons were deployed to Vietnam.
A reader, even knowing the K9 program and goals superficially may be asking “What a police dog has to do with army and open combat?” We agree that police duty and actual war are almost opposite things but, the dogs trained for both situations are almost the same (also see Anti tank dogs).
A K9 dog is a universal dog that can track, guard and catch.
For instance, the tracking ability is best described by the operations of the British Jungle Warfare School dogs. A tracker platoon team comprised five men and a dog. Labrador Retrievers proved worthy, as tracker dogs over the German Shepherd with the latter being more a scout than a tracker. There is a big difference between these two types: scouts alert troops of the enemy personnel and traps while trackers sniff one specific odor in order to track down an enemy or a suspect by the blood trail or footprints. In 1967 the US military established own Combat Tracking Team Center housed at the Army Military Police School in Georgia, Fort Gordon. According to post-Vietnam statistic, over 4000 dogs served in that conflict. Unfortunately, all remaining dogs after the end of the conflict were handled to the Army of South Vietnam as some used equipment and their fate remains uncertain.
In conclusion, it can be said that, the K9 history had its ups and downs. Many programs were started, but later abandoned completely, unlike that of the Air Force called The Sentry Dog Program. Luckily for the modern K9 Corp, all programs lead by the Air Force expanded and changed to serve civil purposes. Despite the debatable success of dog troops in Vietnam, the K9 unit remains an active force, even till today. This is the story of police dog in the United States. Other countries had own projects with a history no less short behind them.
Police Dogs in Other Countries
The use of police dogs for goals for which they are used today has a big history behind. The use of dogs for tracking escaped inmates and slaves has been common in the United States for two centuries. For instance, the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” portrays the use of bloodhounds for capturing fugitive slaves. Most police dogs nowadays are trained for this type of assignment.
In Europe, in 1895, the first attempt towards dog training was made in France. The experiment regarding patrolmen accompanied by the dogs showed immediate success. With the introduction of dog patrols, the Parisian apache gangs ceased to exist in a matter of few years. A year later, in 1896, the Germans adopted the same program and experimented with several breeds to find out which was the most suitable. The German Shepherd showed impressive results and is considered an unofficial symbol of the K9 Corps all around the world. In the 1920’s, the famous police dog training school at Grunheide was established.
In the middle of 1930’s, the British police realized the value of dogs and started own program. In 1938, Scotland Yard welcomed dogs as regular officer’s associates. Britain’s dock police used dogs during policing at piers, docks and wharves.
The police in Europe, especially in Belgium, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Italy began using dogs, long before World War II by exchanging the field experience with British colleagues. One of the most celebrated dogs was Marion, a German Shepherd serving at the police precinct of Charleroi, Belgium. Marion solved mysteries that baffled the police.
In 1934, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police purchased a trained police German Shepherd in order to evaluate its abilities in real investigations and patrols. The immediate success led to a number of different police dogs coming from Europe and the States to Canada. Today German Shepherds, Schnauzers and Doberman Pinschers are trained at the Regina Barracks in Saskatchewan.
Speaking about police dogs in the United States, we have already described the history behind it. However, the US police began implementing dog assistance prior to evident deployment and success showed in Vietnam. Thus, in 1952, the Marshal Field and Company of Chicago placed several watchdogs for guard work in their warehouse. These dogs were trained to patrol the stores with their human colleagues and bark signaling a break-in, smoke or fire. After that many marts and big store nets began using dogs and thus, the percentage of attempted burglars and robberies diminished drastically.
The most famous police training center for dogs is located at Quaggapoort which is six miles away from Pretoria, South Africa. The facility began operating in 1911 after three Doberman Pinschers were brought from Europe. The dog depot had almost 140 dogs most of which were deployed with their trainers otherwise known as “dog masters” to outlying states. Currently there are thirty six dog stations operating throughout the South African Union. At Quaggapoort, all puppies subject to training start drills as early as four months old. They face a 12-month intensive training program covering implicit obedience, climbing, jumping through windows, walking over low and high beams and retrieve. Tall puppies trained till adulthood are being completely trained and thus serve practical purposes in rural areas away from cities. In 1923 after the completion of the depot, several dog breeds were examined to find the most suitable. With the special consideration given to the type of work and climate, the Doberman Pinscher and its cross with the Rottweiler showed the best results.
For a man in the street, K9 training is like a science beyond understanding. Actually… the truth is very close to such statement because, common training and training done for highly specialized purposes are not the same. Let’s compare two strategies – one aimed at puppy for general training and the other is special aimed for solving tactic tasks in a highly-distracting environment.
General puppy training:
- Starts at the age of 12-16 weeks and covers normal obedience training.
- The ultimate goal for all NON-K9 training is to raise an obedient dog that will feel comfortable when being around other people and pets indoors and outdoors.
- Normally, the training lasts one month or longer, depending on the issues that the particular puppy presents in terms of its behavior and trainability.
- General training covers: verbal commands, leash walking, tricks and good behavior in different life situations.
We have already shared much on the puppy training in the article. General training can be done at home by own means, in your free time: spend at least half an hour daily and you will achieve serious results. Another opportunity is to sign your puppy for special classes conducted by experts (see also Puppy training classes).
K9 training can be done at home, provided that the owner himself has enough training competence. To understand the complexity of K9 training, let’s take a look at the list of special tactics that the K9 training covers by default:
Obedience. This is not the obedience that all dog fanciers expect from their pets; it is unquestionable subordination at all times. Whether being on- or off-leash, every dog learns to sit, stay, down, heel and recall with many distractions around. Such obedience is usually taught at advanced commercial classes and to dogs that have an idea of what it means to be obedient. Simply, training that is advanced for “common” dogs is the first and the simplest stage for puppies training at K9 center.
- Obstacles. Police duty imposes great physical performance that practically means a higher agility and mobility. By simulating real life emergency situations, the instructor urges the dog to act properly: jump through windows, open doors, climb up and so on.
- False run. A perfect example of total control over the dog. A trained dog may face a series of threatening moves coming from an agitator. The dog must restrain and stay put unless commanded to act even if the agitator comes at the handler or runs away.
- Attack. An act of aggression performed by the dog without hesitation when commanded. The dog continues to attack until commanded to cease or until the target gives up. Usually, dogs stay with their targets allowing the officer to assist later by cuffing the suspect or keeping him visible and caught under the crosshair.
- Felony search. A police dog can guard a suspect while he is being searched for concealed weapons and contraband. If the suspect makes any move or indicates possible aggression, tries to escape, the dog will react immediately. Sometimes the dog can be left with the assailant until assistance arrives.
- Search. K9 dogs can search for people, certain objects, explosives, drugs, and contraband in the open field, in buildings, and in the vehicles. Training is done using samples – actual weapon, explosives, and drugs.
- Focus under distraction. Gun fire, brawls, explosions, moves coming from assailants must not distract a K9 dog. This is why the puppy steadily undergoes special training involving sharp noises, fire, many object around, etc.
Usually, the K9 training covers several disciplines but, not them all. Creating a universal dog that can perform everything as described above is tactically pointless and costly. This is why there are dogs working with S.W.A.T, police, fire and rescue teams, and DEA separately. K9 training starts when the puppy reaches four months of age and can last for 1 year.
K9 Dogs’ Heroic Deeds
Many people think that a dog that dies protecting its owner is just some blind obedience while other prefers to think that dogs unlike other pets have a complex intellect and feelings. We will leave the speculations behind and discuss acts of heroism that K9 dogs showed in recent years. Before we present names and situations, we would like to let you know that thousands of dogs serve throughout the nation and unfortunately not all their heroic deeds are portrayed by the mass media.
In Autumn, 2015, a Louisiana police department in St. Tammany got a distress call for the K9 patrol to track down two burglar suspects. The K9 dog named Thor tracked them down to a barn in a residential area. Suspects were armed. Sheriff Jack Strain said that the suspect was close to him and attempted to stab but Thor reacted immediately: he pulled the assailant away. Unfortunately, the dog was seriously wounded when the assailant armed with a knife hit Thor several times. Seconds later, sheriff put the assailant down by opening fire. The dog however survived the attack.
Another heroic act dated back to July 2010, when senior constable Bruce Lamb’s dog Gage was fatally shot during a routine drug search in Christchurch. The dog saved constable’s life by leaping into the path of bullet. Gage’s heroic act was recognized with the posthumous award of the PDSA Gold Medal.
In January 2016, over hundred police dogs walked in procession to honor fallen comrade. The memorial service held in Canton, Ohio for Jethro, a K9 police dog that died from injuries suffered during a shootout at grocery store. Jethro was shot three times when confronting a burglar suspect at the store. The suspect was found later alive with a shot wound in the leg and taken to hospital. As for Jethro, he battled his condition and even showed improving clinical picture but unfortunately passed away. Ryan Davis, dog’s partner officer stayed with the dog till the very end.
Another impressing history of life and death is attributed to service of Lakewood police dog, Rocky. Patrol officer Darren Maurer in 2002 pursued an armed burglar when his dog took a bullet, but still managed to capture the 20-year old burglar. Rocky pinned him down and as officer Maurer recalls, “the bullet to his paw never slowed him down”. Six years later, in 2008, the dog suffered from prostate cancer and Darren had to ease his sufferings. “He was uncomfortable and sick, and I wanted him to die with dignity”. Rocky served the police for six years until his honorable retirement in 2007.
K9 Training for Daily Life
This passage covers the following question: is the K9-style training necessary for your dog or not? It’s hard to answer this question in one word. Let’s outline all pros and cons so that you – our dear reader, could evaluate the necessity.
- K9 training solves exceptional tasks. If your puppy undergoes such training, you will have fewer problems in daily life, if any. In simple analysis: if your puppy learns to obey when the gun fire is on, obeying you during a walk in the park will be a piece of cake.
- K9 ensures that every puppy that accomplished the training learns to perform commands and tricks without hesitation and necessary reward. It means that the dog feels natural when playing a soldier rather than being on its own, “at ease”.
- K9 training is the common obedience training, but far more advanced. You don’t need to sign your puppy for enforcement classes to make an ultimate companion. Common K9 command training and behavior in environment with distractions is the only thing that you may truly need.
- K9 instructors are not the same as common puppy class’s staff. They have a big actual experience of not just training, but of actual police raids and patrols as well. Hence, their experience is unrivaled by lovely smiling guys teaching leash walking to your puppy.
- K9 classes, trains a puppy to become an exemplary helper. K9 classes available to public are best favored with ex-military men, hunters and fishermen who need a helper while being in the wild. A dog that can bring a game and stay put/hidden with you in case of presence of wild moose or bear in vicinity can be priceless.
K9 classes are not the same as “regular” puppy classes. They require at least, obedience training completion.
- K9 classes are not suitable for all breeds. Hounds do best of all. Big dogs and hunting dogs can show some success while small dogs do not succeed at all.
- K9 classes are done exceptionally one-to-one as all puppies differ in their temperament and behavior. This is why K9 classes in general are 30% more expensive than regular classes.
- K9 classes may last several months, depending on the goal you and your puppy are pursuing.
- K9 classes sometimes are not what they seem: adventurous entrepreneurs run their K9-like facilities, offering usual lessons and accepting clients in bunches. A real K9 facility is worth every penny spent.
Training your puppy tactically is debatable. Ask yourself a question – what you may need a SWAT-like dog for in daily life and you will come up with own pros and cons.
How to Behave Yourself With a K9 Dog Around
When you see a K9 dog around with its human handler officer, it means they are on duty. There is a simple rule and law stating that, if you interfere with simple questions, talks, when both officers are on duty, such act may be considered obstruction of justice. Also, you should behave yourself as usually – like a nameless passer-by who minds own business. If you run, behave yourself suspiciously and stare both at the dog and the officer, they may be interested in what you are secretly hatching up. This is how a weird stare turns into a search.
Any K9 dog is a separate officer that serves his duty just like any human officer.
Any offense against the dog makes you subject to prosecution and you may end up being incarcerated.
There is nothing much to say to conclude this short passage other than, saying that both the dog and his handler are on duty and you should avoid any contact with them in order not to arouse any curiosity towards you.