K9 - Police dogs, Guard dogs, Rescue dogs, etc.

Dogs with the designation “K9” can be used in many situations. These well-trained working dogs can deliver amazing performance. Not only the police, but also the army and security services - both government and private - use these dogs. Almost every K9 dog has its own permanent "handler" (companion). The bond between handler and dog is very close; many dogs are also part of the handler's family, which only benefits collaboration.

What is a K9 dog?

K9, also written as K-9, is a term used for dogs that have had a certain training and are therefore suitable for very specific tasks. Not every dog ​​is suitable to become a K9 dog. The training is extensive and intensive; not only the type of dog is decisive, but even more the character and capacities of the dog. The training does not only relate to the dog, but also to its companion. Everything the dog learns can only be successfully completed in combination with the right one commands from his supervisor. It is often claimed that the performance of the dog is determined by the limitations of the companion. In principle, dog and companion training never ends; they will always be regularly tested for refresher courses to see whether they still meet the high requirements.

Where does the name "K9" come from?

K9 is a shortened spelling for "canine, Which means canine in English. In fact, K9 is a pun. It is an established synonym for canine. The name originally came from the army and used to be used to designate so-called "war dogs" or "Military Working Dogs" (MWD). For years, however, this name has been adopted by police forces and the like, which means that K9 now stands for (police) dogs that have received very specific training.
The name K9 is not as popular in the Netherlands as in English-speaking countries. Here one will often talk about police dogs, search dogs, rescue dogs, etc. But here too this name is gradually becoming more and more common; the popular series “K9 Cops”Which can be seen from September of this year on Animal planet will certainly contribute to this. In this series you can see the experiences of the K-9 Unit of the St. Paul Police Department from Minnesota (USA). You follow the dogs in action when they are working together with their supervisors in various circumstances, but attention is also paid to their training and care. Americans love advertising and catchy slogans. This is also used for K9.

Which dog breeds as a K9 dog?

The following is a list of dog breeds most commonly used by K9 units:
  • German shepherd
  • Malinois (Malinois)
  • Dutch Shepherd
  • Boxer
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Bloodhound
  • Beagle
  • Rottweiler
  • Giant Schnauzer

All of the dog breeds mentioned above are suitable as a tracking dog, but not all are also suitable as a surveillance or security dog. This is due to the "soft" character and / or the size of the dog. For example, the Beagle is well suited to detect explosives or drugs, but is not suitable for surveillance due to its size. The Labrador is also an excellent tracking dog, but has a too soft character to function as a guard dog.

The life of a K9 dog

K9 dogs are purchased as puppies from carefully selected and reputable breeders. In America, around 75% are purchased from American “breeders” (breeders) and 25% are selected from foreign breeders. After the attacks of September 11, the demand and price of a K9 dog in the US increased. The average purchase price of a K9 dog is around $ 4000 and the price of a fully trained dog is between $ 8,500 and $ 12,000.
By far the most popular K9 dogs are the German shepherd and the Belgian shepherd. A striking number of dogs in K9 units in America, in particular German Shepherds, are imported from the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. These countries are known for delivering dogs that are qualitatively very suitable as a K9 dog.
Puppies are placed in families (volunteers) to fully socialize until they reach the age to start training. This is usually between 12 and 36 months. Before the real K9 training begins, the dogs are first tested for "gun shyness", aggression and detection qualities. A K9 dog must be both a social dog and a protective dog. In addition, the dog is also fully physically tested. Among other things, a blood test for heartworm and photos of hip and elbows are part of this. The K9 training will only be started if the dog meets all standards in terms of character and physical condition.
The average training time for a K9 dog is variable and depends, among other things, on the type of training. Dogs that are trained for detecting drugs or explosives need an average of 180-200 training hours. Dogs for patrol also need on average around 180 hours and search dogs for searching for missing persons, for example. The "Dual Purpose" dogs, which are dogs for searching for drugs or explosives plus for patrol, need on average about 280 training hours.
Every K9 dog usually has its own permanent "handler" (companion). Of course a fixed combination of dog and companion is also the best basis for the very close bond that all companions have with their dog. It goes without saying that every companion is a dog lover. The dog-human relationship can be called unique in the police world since most work relationships are between two or more people. Often the dog is also part of the family of his companion and so just goes home after work. Dog and companion therefore spend many hours in each other's company, which only makes the band stronger. That they go through the fire for each other has been proven many times.
Most K9 dogs have 8 to 10 years of service, after which they retire. They often spend their old age in the house of their companion, but then purely as a pet.

The phenomenal sense of smell of the dog

Despite all the technical, mechanical and physical aids that are available to us, there is, however, one tool - namely the tracking dog - that is used more and more worldwide because of its reliability in finding odorous substances. Studies have shown that a properly working combination of supervisor and dog can provide an accuracy degree of 95%.
A dog is one macrosize (mammal with highly developed sense of smell), on the other hand, humans are a microsize. When a dog is sniffing, the frequency of breathing in / out can run up to 200 / min. or more even. A dog can see in which direction the air is coming in 0.1 seconds. The dog has a very large one olfactory analytical ability. Part of the greater sensitivity of the dog's nose is caused by the larger size of the sensory field in the nasal cavity, which is sensitive to the olfactory stimuli (area olfactoria). The dog can also perceive a difference in odor strength.
The sense of smell of the dog is about a million times more developed than our sense of smell. To recognize odors, 40 times as many cells are reserved in the dog's brain as in humans. The dog's olfactory brain is also much larger compared to humans: 10% of the brain as opposed to 1% in humans.
Moreover, thanks to the movable nose wings, the dog can also receive air from the side, so that the dog knows whether a smell comes from the right or left. It is important that the dog's nose is always moist, because with a moist nose the dog can determine the wind direction.
With the dog, the nose is the sense that is already active after 2 days and it is also the sense that remains active the longest when the dog gets older. With an aging dog, the hearing deteriorates and sometimes the vision, but the nose continues to function optimally.
Every dog ​​is in principle a potential tracking dog, but the targeted search (tracking) is something that we must teach (train) if we want to be able to make targeted use of it.

Classification of K9 dogs

K9 dogs are trained for various tasks. The working area can be very diverse; a global layout is:
  • Security / Security dogs
  • Tracking dogs

Security / Security dogs

Guarding / Security dogs can be used in very varied situations:
Maintaining public order
In fact, wherever a crowd needs to be restrained to maintain public order, K9 units can be deployed for patrolling. Everyone knows the police brigades that are deployed at risk moments. You can see these service dogs at the police and M.E. at football matches where riots and the like are not excluded.
Or to support security in the event of special events such as state visits or the like.
Arrests and searches
K9 units are also often used when searching buildings and homes or when criminals are arrested.
Security and surveillance
Guarding and securing buildings, grounds or people. Consider, for example, the monitoring of military bases, border surveillance, port police or the surveillance of remote industrial sites.

Tracking dogs

The concept of a tracking dog covers many activities of a K9 dog, but all tasks of these working dogs are based on one and the same and that is the phenomenal sense of smell of the dog. The popular name for tracking dogs is "Sniffer Dogs" Dogs of this kind must be able to deliberately concentrate without being distracted. A tracking dog must, so to speak, be completely absorbed in the track. The track that has to be followed can run on both unpaved and paved surfaces, in various circumstances. Because of this variety, it is necessary that the dog selectively deals with the odor supply. Dogs can do this very well, because they can discriminate perfectly against odors.
The working area for tracking dogs can also be very diverse; a global layout is:
  • Rescue dogs
  • Tracking dogs for specific fragrances

Rescue dogs

Rescue dogs are also called SAR dogs mentioned. SAR stands for Search And Rescue, or search and rescue. These dogs are trained to detect human odor and are used for:
Searching for missing persons
When searching for missing persons, people are confronted with their shortcomings with regard to odor perception. The enormous sense of smell of the dog is therefore invaluable to humans. The tracing of missing persons can relate, for example, to persons who are missing in forests, heaths, etc. It is also possible to search for older people who have left the house in a confused state or small children who have run away. A tracking dog can search a large area in a relatively short time. The use of a tracking dog can also be valuable in cases such as abducted persons.
Searching for victims during rescue work such as searching for survivors after earthquakes, searching for wreckage during train collisions or crashed aircraft, searching for collapsed buildings after an explosion, etc.
Search for water
Looking for water comes down to looking for drowning people. Rescue dogs are able to observe bodies even at great depths. Small waters usually search from the shore, but large open waters do this from a boat.
Avalanche dogs
Despite all the advanced equipment, avalanche dogs are still widely used to track avalanche victims. A dog is able to smell people under a thick layer of snow. Searching in snow is relatively easy for dogs because the snow is virtually odorless. To be able to proceed very quickly to search, dogs are often flown in with helicopters. Together with their guide, the animals are dropped on the ground with or without a cable. It goes without saying that perfect training is required for this.

Tracking dogs for specific fragrances

In principle you can train a dog to search for any specific odorant. To prevent odor confusion, K9 dogs are usually trained for one specific odor and not for all kinds of other disciplines. The best known detection dogs for specific fragrances are:
Tracking dog narcotics
This type of tracking dog - often popularly “drug dog"- is trained to detect narcotics such as Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin and Amphetamines. The applications include airports, border crossings (customs), port police, etc.
Detective dog explosives
This type of tracking dogs are trained on various basic materials and complete explosives; almost all types of explosives can be found with this. Explosive substances such as dynamite, TNT, PETN (also called pentrite, pentrite or Nitropenta), glycerol trinitrate, diesel oil, black powder, hexogen, semtex, tetryl, etc. are trained very quietly and may not touch anything during the search or to disturb. If the tracking dog has found an explosive then he must passively refer him. The dogs should not exhibit any excited reactions such as barking or scratching due to the extreme sensitivity of explosion systems. Some bombs may already explode due to barking decibels. If the dog has found an explosive, the EOC (Explosive Clearance Command) can make the explosive harmless.
Applications are often preventive, for example when visiting a VIP, but these dogs are also often used after a bomb report.
Tracking dog mines detection
This type of dog is used as an effective means of detecting landmines and is therefore mainly used in the army. Dogs can detect extremely low concentrations of explosives. A well-trained mine detection dog can detect concentrations many times lower than technological means can detect. A person can smell concentrations of around 1ppm (parts per milion), while advanced chemical analysis devices can trace concentrations of around 1ppb (parts per billion), but a tracking dog can already smell concentrations of around a tenth ppt (parts per trillion). Moreover, a dog can make a distinction if there are several smells mixed together.
Tracking dog human remains
Tracking dog human remains (corpse dog) is a dog specially trained to find "composting human air". The dog is used for searching and discovering human remains such as entire bodies, body parts, blood residues or body fluids. These tracking dogs can detect corpses that have been buried deep underground for years. Even bodies that have been submerged in water somewhere on the bottom for a long time can also be m.b.v. dogs of this kind are found because in a corpse that is in a far-reaching state of decomposition, gases are formed which rise to the surface of the water and which the dog can observe.
Tracking dog fire accelerators
Detection dogs are used for detection of fire accelerators (accelerants) that are specially trained to detect any fire accelerators present. Increasingly, after a fire, where it is suspected that it was lit, dogs of this kind are used. These tracking dogs - also called "Arson Dogs”- can search for flammable liquids in the fire residues. Arson is the English word for "arson". The dog can designate areas for the investigator to collect samples that can be submitted to a forensic laboratory. The results of the investigation are important for insurance companies as well as for the police. The most commonly used accelerators for arson are gasoline, kerosene, diesel, gas oil, paint thinners and turpentine. They are substances that will not evaporate in their entirety and are not soluble in water. It has been shown that dogs can still detect used accelerators up to 18 days after a fire.

Tools for K9 dogs

There are various tools available for K9 dogs in action that should contribute to the safety of these dogs:
  • Bulletproof vest
  • Life jacket
  • Shoes

Bulletproof vest

For K9 dogs there are bulletproof vests, these are special bulletproof and stab proof jackets similar to the vests that police officers have. As more and more dogs were injured, a start was made in the early nineties with the use of these types of vests.

Life jacket

Life jackets offer optimum protection for K9 dogs that have water as their working area. Because of the bright colors, the dog is also clearly visible in the dark. There is a handle on the back with which the dog can easily be pulled out of the water.

Dog shoes

Following their companions, who often wear shoes with steel-reinforced soles and noses, some police dogs now also get foot protection. Also during the rescue operations after the attacks on the World Trade Center in America, the rescue dogs wore all these special dog shoes to protect the soles of the feet. Dogs are often used for campaigns where a lot of glassware or plastic with sharp edges is lying on the ground. The unusual footwear is therefore not a fashion phenomenon, but necessary because of the frequent injuries to the legs during the service. The dog will only start wearing the shoes during the service that requires extra protection of the paws.

K9 monuments

Here in the Netherlands perhaps not so common, but in America all the more. In the US there are many monuments that are especially for K9 dogs. You also have many "War Dog Memorials" there, in particular many K9 army dogs from the Vietnam War are commemorated with this. It is "normal" for Americans to honor K9 dogs who have died "in the line of duty" through such monuments. The "Miami Police K-9 Memorial" was unveiled on May 1, 2009 and is located in the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial section of the Tropical Park in Miami, Florida.
The text on this monument is:
In honor of the dedicated K-9s which made the ultimate sacrifice
Born to love
Trained to serve
Loyal to the end
Best friend to our nation's finest
We serve our master who serves mankind
Faithful to the end
An officer's extra sense
To guide and protect
Your eyes in the dark
A nose for danger
A partner faithful beyond words


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