How Police Dog Training Programs Teach Special Pups To Apprehend Suspects

Police dog training is no joke.

Training dogs for apprehending suspects is no joke.
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Police dog training is no joke.

Dogs go through much training before they can call themselves K9s. As stated in Police Dog Training: Tracking The Suspect, the USPCA upholds the highest standards of K9s. The organization tests for a dog’s ability to excel in the following categories: apprehension, detection, and search and rescue.

Tracking is not the only skill a police dog needs to apprehend a suspect. K9s must also be obedient and agile. The USPCA tests these attributes in aspiring canines as well as their ability to search for clues and temperament while apprehending a suspect under the patrolling tests. The USPCA’s patrol test has four phases: obedience, agility, searching, and criminal apprehension and recall.

During the obedience test, leashes are prohibited. The obedience portion of the test is further separated into four parts: the heeling phase, distance control phase, obedience recall phase, and walking control phase, according to the KAC. Of the four, distance control and obedience, as well as recall, may be the most challenging. Both phases require the handler to stand at least 50 feet away from their dogs and command them from that distance.

After obedience, the dog’s agility is tested. This portion of the exam requires the testee to pass through obstacles; namely, hurdles and A-frames. Hurdles could be a chain link fence, a window, or a simulated brick wall. The dog must also be able to perform a catwalk, broad jump, and crawl.

After proving their agility, aspiring police dogs must pass the search tests which consists of finding articles like an expended shotgun shell, a metal gun, or a key ring. Judges will place the item in their hands for 30 seconds before scattering for the dog to find. The dog can either retrieve the article and return it to the handler or indicate that he/she has found an article by sitting or staying close to the item without touching it. Similarly, there is a suspect search portion of the test in which the dog tries to find a human target.

The obedience, agility, and search part of the patrolling test all build up to the last portion of the exam: criminal apprehension. Candidates will face the hardest intellectual challenges and physical obstacles in this phase. Each team will have a decoy who will play the target.

First, handlers will be asked to recall their partners from chasing the decoy or keeping the dogs in place while the decoy is running. Then the test gets harder with the actual apprehension of the suspect. Dogs are tasked to apprehend with gunfire and without gunfire. During this part of the test, candidates are also observed for their ability to protect the handler.