Ask a Cop – July 2012

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Illustration: Sean Hennefer

Dear Cop,
I heard that police dogs are retired after working for seven years. I’ve also heard that the majority of dogs that serve on the force are purchased when they are puppies. How long are dogs trained for? Can any officer put their dog through the “training” program? How much does it cost to train a dog and who pays for the pooch’s training? What happens if a dog in training just can’t seem to make the cut—are they sent to shelters for potential adoption? Do officers turn them into family pets? Or are these reject police dogs simply put to sleep when they don’t work out?

One final question, who-in-the-hell’s bad idea was it to give the City Creek cops segways? No offense or anything, but police look way tougher walking beside a burly German Shepherd than riding a stupid motorized transportation device.
–Curious about canines

Dear Canine Curious,
I think you’d be lucky to get seven years out of a dog. I’m going to give you my opinion based on a dual purpose dog. Dual purpose dogs are K9s who can sniff out drugs and bite. Single purpose dogs are bloodhound tracker dogs, arson dogs, explosive dogs or drug interdiction dogs.

I’d say around five years is more or less the average length of service for a bite/sniff dog. Years ago, most dogs were German Shepherds. However, now a Belgian Malinois is preferred. They have all the same qualities of the Shepherd with a stronger bite, drive and stamina. Those of you groaning right now can bite me (or sniff me). Why only five years? I can’t think of any law enforcement position more taxing than K9 and handler. The physical and mental stress, as well as the enormity of the training, does not make for long tours for the dogs or handlers.

There are specific breeders of dual purpose law enforcement dogs who have already done a large portion of the training and evaluation. Most dogs are around the age of two when purchased by a law enforcement agency. The dogs can cost $5K and up, but often they’re donated by citizens. However, I do know of cops who have raised dogs from puppies and successfully trained and worked the dogs for years as their law enforcement partner, but this is highly unusual.

The K9 and handler go through extensive training together and have to pass POST K9 evaluations before deployment. Like you suggested, some dogs don’t make it. Usually, there’s no problem with someone adopting these dogs. Most dogs who retire are adopted. But, there are those few who could never be a “pet.” That would be a case where the dog would be put down. Know this: Police K9 dogs are not pets. They’re trained exceptionally as a working dog performing a violent job. They are all Type A’s. Don’t ever attempt to pet one unless you check with the handler first. Your questions are quite sensible, and you should consider a career in law enforcement as a K9 handler.

I agree with your segway feeling, and I just recently wrote about how fat cops are. Maybe the City Creek mall administrators don’t read this column. I’m hurt. Guess I’ll just have to frequent the heathen mall. Think about it: The Gateway lets thousands of drunk Irish have a parade down the middle of it. What cooler mall is there
than that?

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