Police Canines: The Bite Is Worse Than The Bark
Dogs used for law enforcement are trained to perform a variety of duties. One of those assignments is patrol. Patrol dogs are the canines used to apprehend criminals, assist with crowd control, track fleeing suspects, and search buildings or land areas for criminals who are hiding from the police. These aggressive dogs are are the biters.
The most popular breeds used for patrol work are:
German Shepherd – The Shepherd was bred for its intelligence and to protect herds from predators. In the canine world the Shepherds intelligence is surpassed only by Border Collies and Poodles. Their ability to learn commands quickly makes them an excellent choice for police work.
Belgian Malinois – These 65 -75 lb dogs are bred as working dogs, for protection and police work.
Rottweiler – originally bred in Germany as a herding dog, but was often used as a beast of burden for hauling wood and other items to market. Very loyal and aggressive breed.
A dog’s nose has approximately 200 million scent receptor cells. Humans have about 5 million. Because of this large number of scent receptors, dogs have the unique ability to discern one scent over other, even when there are several different items around. For example, we smell a pot of delicious homemade soup cooking. A dog smells the individual ingredients – onions, meat, tomatoes, carrots, etc. That’s why bad guys can’t fool a narcotics dog by attempting to mask a drug’s scent with things like coffee and fish. A police dog would detect two separate odors.
Patrol dogs – the biters – must undergo obedience and agility training. These animals are trained to work on and off leash. They’re also trained to respond to both verbal commands and hand signals.
Handlers spend a huge amount of time bonding with their dog. They also spend a lot of time teaching the dog who’s in control. In the beginning that latter is not always an easy task. A large Rottweiler, with an independent mind, can be quite a challenge for a brand new handler. I know. My hands have lots of scars from dog bites I received during the first few weeks of training with a new dog (they call them green dogs at the academy I attended).
Patrol dogs are trained to perform in a variety of settings and conditions. They must react as trained no matter where they are when needed.
Training scenarios are designed to simulate realistic conditions.
Patrol dogs are trained not to bite until they are given the command to do so, or when their handler is in danger.
Patrol dogs must respond without hesitation. They must continue to stop the threat until the suspect surrenders, or until its handler commands it to stop. These dogs are also trained to guard a suspect while the officer officer searches the criminal for weapons. If the suspect makes an aggressive move toward the officer, the dog will react accordingly to protect the handler.
Patrol dogs are trained to ignore loud noises such as yelling, sirens, and gun shots.
Bite suit worn by officers during patrol dog training.
A while back I had the pleasure of being “aunt” to a working patrol GSD who lived at the end of the block. He too was trained to bite on command, and he made good decisions including biting without a command. He once needed to do it to protect his cop.
That is one of the characteristics of why guard/herding dogs are so good at this work, they make correct decisions even if it is not possible for their human to give commands.
For me, the dude was an occasional delightful weekend house guest. He was fine with our dog, and our friends. He thought the three cats were strange, but quickly agreed with Mickey that he was just part of Mickey’s pack. Mickey = grey tabby. Another good decision.
He was especially fine when someone came to the door. He’d stand, smiling with me, as I opened the door. I loved seeing people I didn’t want to talk to stammering and backing out of the fenced yard they were stupid enough to walk into.
Back in the house we’d high five and I’d break out the treats.
Dachshunds can be quite fierce!
Years ago, when my husband was a kid, his brother had a German Shepherd that was a reject from the police. He had to eventually get rid of it because it bit anyone who came to the house.
The gas meter reader had “vicious dog” written on his paperwork whenever he read the meter. One day long after this dog was gone, the meter reader came to the house and heard loud barking. My mother-in-law went to the door and told the meter reader to come in. He wouldn’t because he had “vicious dog” written on his clipboard. The new dog finally came into view–it was a dachshund.