Everyone loves a working dog. While there are plenty of dogs who work elsewhere, some of the most common working breeds are actually found in law enforcement. These hardworking canines serve a variety of law enforcement functions, but they’re all united in their ability to work alongside their human handlers with a great deal of dedication.
What you may not realize, though, is that there are many different breeds of police dogs. Some of these dogs are better suited for certain jobs than others, while certain departments have their preferences as to the breeds of their K-9 officers. Regardless of the breed, though, all of these dogs live to protect and serve.
The Most Common Police Dog Breeds
Perhaps the best-known police dog breed is the German Shepherd. Actually one of the most popular breeds in America in any capacity, these dogs were made famous for their use as police dogs on the big and small screens.
German Shepherds tend to be very common police dogs not just because they’re big and strong, but also because they are incredibly easy to train. There’s a reason, after all, that so many of these dogs are also trained as service dogs. Shepherds tend to fill virtually every K-9 role available thanks to these factors, as they’re equally as good at sniffing out bombs and running down criminals.
You’ve probably seen one of these dogs on duty without actually knowing that you are looking at one. The Belgian Malinois not only looks an awful lot like a German Shepherd, but the two dogs are fairly closely related.
Belgian Malinois are a little smaller than German Shepherds, but this actually gives them an edge in the speed department. Like their relatives, though, they’re incredibly easy to train and excel at many police dogs. You’ll frequently see these dogs in airports because they are natural investigators who aren’t inherently very aggressive.
Boxers actually got their start in service not with the police, but with the military. Widely used as guard dogs during both world wars, they continue to be incredibly useful guards and even messengers for their owners.
The Boxer is an ideal police dog because the breed is largely unflappable. These dogs are very loyal and sociable, but they are also somewhat intimidating. You won’t see Boxers on duty too often in the United States, but they’re a fairly regular sight in Germany.
Yes, this incredibly popular pet breed is also a very popular police breed. Initially bred to retrieve prey after it had been shot, these dogs have taken that instinct and have successfully turned it towards finding bombs, narcotics, and other contraband items in police precincts across the United States.
Labs are smart, friendly dogs who do well in a variety of settings. Their natural personalities make them great for postings where they work with people, while their friendly nature also makes them quick to bond with their human partners. It’s no wonder, then, that you’ll see these dogs working all over the United States.
This is another breed that was popularized by film and television, but they serve quite often in real life as well. These dogs may not be as common as German Shepherds in the United States, but their imposing presence keeps them working.
The biggest secret of the Pinscher is that the breed isn’t actually all that naturally aggressive. They actually like to be around people when possible, and they excel at tasks that involve searching. With that said, Doberman Pinschers are still frequent chase dogs who are tasked with apprehending criminals – a role that comes naturally to these quick dogs.
Doberman Pinschers definitely take the prize as the fastest police dogs, but they’re also incredibly smart. These dogs don’t see quite as much work sniffing out bombs or drugs, but they do get used quite often in situations in which their natural intelligence can help their human partners.
Floppy-eared and a little goofy looking, these dogs are actually incredibly popular in police units because of their fantastic sense of smell. This breed was among the first used as police dogs in the United States, largely because they have the ability to pick up a scent even after it has lain dormant for quite some time.
Bloodhounds, as you might imagine, are primarily tracking dogs. Originally bred as hunting animals, they were largely employed to help track down both active criminals and escaped prisoners. You don’t see too many of these dogs in service today, but they still end up working a number of search and rescue cases in which having a friendly presence can be useful.
Bouvier des Flandres
Honestly, the Bouvier de Flandres is not the most common police breed, but it is one that has a long and storied career as a personal guard dog. Gentle towards their owners and highly protective, these dogs have a tendency to get very aggressive any time they believe that one of their people might be threatened.
While you aren’t going to see the breed in most police departments, you will hear them spoken of fondly by most handlers. These dogs are more frequently seen abroad and tend to be an incredible asset in those departments that can use their overwhelming size and frightening growl to good effect. A few of them have made it stateside as well, and most would do well to keep on the good side of this breed.
Giant Schnauzers are exactly what they sound like – huge Schnauzers that have all of the qualities of their smaller cousins but a significant difference in size. These dogs are suspicious, aggressive, and tend to be excellent at police work.
Oddly, you won’t really see this breed at work in the United States. They’re a fairly new police breed almost anywhere else, with many departments putting them to work as trackers and search dogs. They tend to excel when their aggression and energy can be harnessed, but they’re also incredibly useful in any situation that requires an almost ridiculous degree of tenacity.
American Pit Bull Terriers
There are several types of pit bulls in the United States, but only one regularly serves as a police dog. The American Pit Bull Terrier is a relatively recent entrant into the world of policing, with many of them only coming into service during the last few years of the 2010s. With that said, though, these dogs are already proving to be quite effective.
Many departments are turning towards Pit Bulls for the simple reason that they are cheap. Most working Pit Bulls are rescues, which means that they don’t come with the five-figure price tag that’s common in most other service breeds. Fortunately, the sheer potential of these dogs more than makes up for their low price.
Pit Bulls have all the qualities one would want in a police dog. They are fast, strong, and confident. They’re also loyal and fearless, with a surprising amount of tenderness to those who they love. These are mostly patrolled dogs for the moment, but there are definitely talks of using these dogs more widely due to their excellent dispositions and the relative ease of procuring more of them in the future.
If you’re familiar with the Briard, you’re probably scratching your head right now. This dog certainly doesn’t look ready to work, yet they’re actually incredibly valuable for many police departments because they tend to be incredibly alert watchdogs.
The Briard isn’t a common police dog in the United States, of course, but other countries value them because they can be trained easily and are suitable for a variety of different jobs. Not only are they great watchdogs, but they are also excellent at search and rescue and they can be invaluable assets when dealing with those who are suffering from PTSD.
Airedale Terriers are another police breed that got its start in the military during the World Wars. These dogs tended to work as guard dogs, particularly as those assigned to protect officers on the battlefield. They also worked as patrol dogs, helping to sniff out anyone who might be trying to get across the lines.
These big terriers were initially bred as vermin catchers, but today they’re more often see in police units working to sniff out both drugs and bombs. They’re not the most common police dog breed, of course, but they do see a fair bit of use both in Europe and in the United States.
Yes, even Beagles can find work as police dogs. It makes sense if you think about their origins, though – as silly as these dogs can get, they’re actually an older hunting breed.
Beagles tend to work primarily as sniffers in locations that have large populations. You’ll see these dogs in both harbors and airports, using their incredible noses to find anyone that’s trying to get anything illegal past security.
While you might think that the relatively small size of Beagles would make them a liability, that’s actually one of the primary reasons they’ve become so popular. These dogs can get lifted to place where humans can’t go and they can also get into the smaller spots where bigger breeds can’t follow. Small and stealthy, they’re also great ambassadors for police departments who want to put a friendlier face on K-9 units.
The Cane Corso is one of the original police dogs, getting its start with Roman armies. These dogs are another breed that combines strength and courage with a hardworking nature, making them natural guard dogs and excellent hands (or paws) for officers on patrol duty.
Sadly, there’s only one Cane Corso working as a police dog in the United States these days. These dogs have a reputation for aggression, which is the last thing you want in a working dog. It is, however, very likely that more of these dogs will get to work as more training regimens are put into place to help harness their frankly fantastic abilities.
German Shorthaired Pointer
Hunting dogs make some of the best police dogs, so it does make sense that this breed would find itself working alongside human officers. Easy to train and incredibly enthusiastic about working, these dogs are natural trackers who are fantastic at finding their prey no matter how long they have been on the run.
This breed is also very different than most police dogs because they’re just so incredibly eager to please. Non-aggressive almost to a fault, they just want to make their handlers happy by accomplishing their tasks. Most handlers will agree that this makes them ideal trackers.
The last of the major police dog breeds is the Dutch Shepherd. Another non-aggressive but reliable breed, these dogs tend to be used for guard and patrol work in Europe but tend to be passed over for other Shepherds in the United States.
Though these dogs might not be quite as popular as their cousins, they are easy to handle and trained. They’re becoming very popular among units who need dogs who are great at staying alert but who don’t have quite as much of a killer instinct as some other police dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What dog breeds are used as police dogs?
There are many different breeds used as police dogs. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Airedale Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, and even Beagles are used in the field, with many other breeds doing important work that simply cannot be done by some of the more commonly used police dogs.
2. Which is the best dog for police?
It depends on the task. If you’re looking for ease of training, it’s probably the German Shepherd. The Doberman Pinscher, on the other hand, is the fastest pursuit dog. The best tracker is probably the Bloodhound, while the stealthiest is probably the Beagle.
3. Why are Belgian Malinois used as police dogs?
They have most of the same selling points as German Shepherds (ease of training, strength, and intelligence) while being a little smaller and faster as well as a bit less aggressive. The Belgian Malinois tends to do many of the same jobs as the German Shepherd, though and does them all very well.
4. What breed are military dogs?
There are many military dog breeds. Most people definitely think of German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, though, when they think of famous military dogs.