Police dogs are a very important asset to the police service. They help tackle crime by detecting suspects or missing people, recovering lost or stolen property, and can also be extremely useful in controlling public disorder.
A great deal of care and thought goes into selecting dogs for police work. It is vital they have a good temperament; they also need to be physically fit, inquisitive, well socialised, and bold, have strong motivation and be keen to play and interact with people.
The majority of police dogs are ‘donated’ by members of the public. Some are purchased as young dogs or puppies and others come from rescue centres. They are assessed for a period of time to assess suitability.
Training is based on play and exercises are slowly built up over a period of time with the emphasis of fun and reward for the dog. Throughout training, the dog's natural abilities are identified, encouraged and enhanced. A dog's natural abilities form the basis for many of the exercises in police dog training, including its instinct to treat its handler as pack leader.
The police dog is rewarded and praised for its hard work and given good food, care, exercise and protection. On completion of the initial course, the dog and handler are assessed. If they have achieved the required standards they are licensed to become operational as a team.
All police dogs are kept at the handler's home to ensure they remain bonded, and they will have holidays with their handler, either at home or in police kennels. During operational duties, the dog is housed in the police van which is specially adapted for the dogs safety and comfort. They are regularly watered and exercised by their handlers.