The level of training K-9 officers receive depends on whether they will be conducting standard law enforcement duties with their canine partners, performing specialized K-9 tasks, or perhaps both. The initial training is the same no matter what the case, but specialized tasks require enhanced training for both the canines and their human partners.
We’ll highlight three primary basic K-9 training programs below and then close with a rundown of specialized training combined as the fourth.
1. Canine Handling
It’s all about the bond. Bonding is one of the most important parts of the whole K-9 training process. Officers and their canine partners undergo rigorous training that covers obedience, safety, behavioral issues, first aid, and basic animal care.
Another element of this training is to ensure appropriate responses from both officers and canines in various scenarios of police work that involves other people. K-9 dogs and their handlers tend to receive significant attention and interest from people, so it’s important that both have a calm and pleasant demeanor to ensure positive interactions with the general public.
2. Crowd Control
The ability to control a crowd with the use of a K-9 is an art. The presence of K-9 officers typically serves as a deterrent to unruly behavior. Canines are trained to bark and intimidate crowds on-command, which helps control crowd movements and actions.
Crowd training also includes more aggressive crowd control like bite contact (when the situation calls for it) and defense training for the K-9 officer.
3. Suspect Take Down & Apprehension
This intensive training covers many parameters and provides K-9 units with a variety of options when engaging with criminal suspects. Despite sometimes violent scenes on television and movies, K-9 dogs are not “attack dogs” — their bite training teaches them to “bite and hold on,” not dismember the suspect.
“Reasonable force” is a key component of this training regimen, and “bark and hold” is trained almost as much as takedowns. With bark and hold, the K-9 dog engages the suspect by sitting and barking and will only bite if provoked or threatened. Takedown and apprehension training also covers building searches, suspect location, and other suspect-related K-9 tasks.
4. Specialized Training
K-9 units receive specialized training to perform the following tasks:
- Illegal Substance Detection
- Bomb and Hazardous Substance Detection
- Track and Find Missing Persons
- Cadaver Searching
As with other elements of K-9 work, specialized tasks require close coordination between officers and their canine partners, and the two train as a team. The training for each of these specialized tasks is distinctly different and requires extensive practice to hone the respective skills of the K-9 team.
Finally, all elements of K-9 training are ongoing—practice makes perfect, and superior K-9 teams make a point of regularly practicing all elements relating to their duties.
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