The Meaning of a K-9 Dog


Wait, why are they called K-9s?

In most English-speaking countries a police dog is called a K-9 dog. These are dogs that are specifically trained to help law-enforcement. K-9 is a homophone of the word canine. A K-9 dog’s duties range from searching for narcotics and explosives, finding crime scene evidence, apprehending criminals and locating missing people. Common K-9 breeds include German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhound, Beagles, Labradors and Rottweilers.

K-9 History

Many people may not know, but dogs have been used in law enforcement since the Middle Ages. Bloodhounds were commonly used in villages for hunting down outlaws in France. During the 14th century in Scotland, Bloodhounds were used as detective dogs using their great sense of smell.

In the 19th century there was a public increase of concern regarding growing lawlessness in London and the existing needed additional help. As a result, a private coalition was formed to help minimize the crime. The night watchmen were hired to guard and were provided firearms and dogs to protect themselves.

In more recent times dogs were used in London by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police in 1889.

When the serial killer, Jack the Ripper couldn’t be caught, the citizens were upset that bloodhounds were not being used to track the killer. Soon after, bloodhounds were trained for use at the crime scenes, however, they were improperly trained and one of the dogs bit the police commissioner and ran off.

About 10 years later, dogs were used on a larger scale in Europe. They were used in France to fight criminal gangs at night and Belgium introduced the first organized K-9 dog training program. There were further scientific experiments and developments with breeding and training that lead to the selection of the German Shepherd as the ideal police dog in 1920. On the docks in Britain, police dogs were used and other breeds were being experimented with, like the Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retrievers.


The process of training a K-9 dog is lengthy, but also begins with the training of the dog handler. It’s important that the K-9 handler goes through training to ensure that they will be able to train the dog to perform its abilities. A K-9 dog handler must complete a police academy training and one to two years of patrol experience before they can transfer to a K-9 unit. This allows an officer experience in law enforcement before joining a K-9 unit. Having dog knowledge and outside dog training experience is also an asset.

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