Tag Archives: K9

K9 Veterans Day: A Day to Say ‘Thank You’ to Military Dogs


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On March 13, we recognize K9 Veterans Day, a day to salute the brave war dogs for their service to the U.S. military. While dogs have been accompanying humans in battle for centuries, official training centers for pooches under the Dogs for Defense did not come about until 1942. Today, there are about 2,500 working military dogs, and the day we commemorate them is also official birthday of the US Army K9 Corps. Let’s learn more about these paw-some military pups!

The Use of K9’s
Why would there be a demand for military dogs in the first place? The answer is that canines have special skills that surpass the human senses, proving very useful on the battlefield. Their superb noses can be used to sniff out explosives, locate soldiers and detect intruders. In addition to their ability to smell from far away distances, dogs can react quickly to dangers in their surroundings, and their innate strength is enough to intimidate an attacker without having to use lethal force. They are even trained to bite on command, revealing their discerning ability to stay loyal to their handlers while protecting them against their enemies. With their combination of optimal physical traits and fierce loyalty, dogs make the perfect partner for military use.

Breeds of the Military
Breeds used in the U.S. military have been narrowed largely to five breeds, the majority of which are German and Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. In fact, 85% of military dogs come directly from Germany and the Netherlands. In result, their handlers typically learn a few commands in the language of the dog’s country of origin. These breeds in particular are chosen for their consistent qualities of intelligence, loyalty and athleticism. Other breeds are used for more specialized roles, such as Golden and Labrador Retrievers as odor detection dogs. Others include Doberman Pinschers, Farm Collies (short coat) and Giant Schnauzers, Alaskan Malamutes and American Eskimo dogs.

Canines in Combat
There are several different roles that military K9’s may serve. Sentry dogs are taught to guard supplies and warn their handlers of incoming danger. They are especially useful for nighttime operations, when soldiers are more vulnerable to covert attacks. In addition to possessing the skills of sentries, the specialty of scout or patrol dogs is to detect the presence of the enemy long before soldiers become aware. According to the United States War Dogs Association, when a scout dog senses the enemy approaching, she will stiffen her body, raise her hackles, prick her ears and hold her tail rigid. There are messenger dogs that travel silently with their handlers, mine dogs trained to detect dangerous obstacles and casualty dogs that seek out the injured and fallen. Tunnel dogs were used to explore underground in Vietnam, and explosives detection dogs are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the War on Terrorism. There’s a canine role for just about any job in the military.

After Service
After these heroic canines have finished their service, they often stay with their handlers and their handlers’ families as pets. They may also find homes with law enforcement, or get adopted into families who welcome the opportunity to give these deserving dogs a happy home where they can enjoy retirement from working military life.

Dogs are pretty amazing, huh? Use the hashtag #NationalK9VeteransDay to show your support for canine veterans today!

Spotlight on Police Dogs


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You’ve seen them on TV, in the movies and even in your own neighborhood. They’re cute and cuddly, but have a bite as big as their bark. They’re police dogs, and they’re here to fight crime and save the day!

thumbnail-copsPolice use canines, called appropriately “K9s” in English-speaking countries, to provide police departments certain skills humans lack. For example, an average dog’s sense of smell is almost 50 times more sensitive than a human’s. Also, the brute appearance of police dogs is intimidating enough to prevent confrontation from a criminal (HowStuffWorks). Not to mention, police dogs are also much faster and stronger than most humans, and can provide the force necessary to take down an escaping suspect. Together, a police dog and his carefully-chosen handler make up what’s called a “K9 unit.”

The two most common breeds utilized by police are the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois. Most of us recognize the German for its impressive size and no-nonsense demeanor, but the Malinois might sound less familiar. The Malinois is a slimmer version of the German Shepherd and hails from the Netherlands. Much like the German, it is prized for its speed, agility and intelligence. Labrador Retrievers tend to be used for responsibilities that require a high level of attention and focus, such as sniffing out explosives that can detonate from sudden movement, while German Shepherds handle more aggressive tasks. Most police dogs are males left intact (unneutered) to preserve their natural aggressive instinct.

The first police dogs were actually Bloodhounds, not German Shepherds. With their keen sense of smell, Bloodhounds were used by police in Europe as early as the 18th Century to track criminals on the loose and missing persons. After WWI, countries like Germany and Belgium started using dogs for specific purposes, such as guard dog duty. Police dogs didn’t join American law enforcement until the 70’s, but over the past few years, the US has made notable advancements in their K9 training.

Before being trained for specific duties, all police dogs must be experts at basic obedience training. This means that the dog obeys his handler’s commands without hesitation, which is crucial in a high-risk, emergency situation. Training a police dog to do specific tasks is an intensive process, but includes continual rewarding of the dog. For example, the dogs are trained to sniff out drugs by teaching them to associate drugs with a fun game of tug-of-war. After the K9 unit plays a game of tug-of-war with a scent-free towel, they will then play using a towel encasing a drug such as marijuana so that the dog recognizes the smell of marijuana as the smell of his favorite pastime. It’s a highly effective process with results that translate into real life situations.

In our nation’s current climate of tense police-to-citizen relations, using K9 forces can help reduce police departments’ liability. K9s often prevent the injuries and struggle that arise from a suspect resisting an officer’s commands, which in turn prevents lawsuits against the department. If a K9 unit ever does encounter a lawsuit, the court will often judge in favor of the police because a dog’s training provides strong evidence that he acted appropriately in any situation.

At the end of a long and tiring work day, a police dog will go home to his owner, who is often also the handler, to enjoy the company of his family. It just goes to show how versatile dogs are to fulfill different roles in our lives; hardworking crime fighters by day, loyal family companions by night.