Working dogs have been used by police forces for over a century. In the late 1800′s, Belgian police officers were under frequent attack during their nightly urban patrols. The unlucky officers demanded that additional forces be hired and trained to assist them. Unfortunately, lack of funding made this impossible. The Belgian government’s solution was to, instead, train working shepherd dogs to assist with patrols. To the Belgian police, this was hardly an ideal solution. The intimidating size and ferocity of the dogs was effective in deterring attacks against the police officers, but there were often cases of the dogs attacking the officers themselves. However, through persistent training, the Belgian police were soon able to mold these working dogs into loyal, obedient, and highly effective protection dogs. The use of working dogs by police forces soon spread through Europe into Germany, Austria, France and The Netherlands. Today, police dogs are in use all over the world.
The roles of police dogs have changed considerably since their early use as a criminal deterrent. Protecting police officers is still top priority for police dogs, but aggressive attacks against police officers is an increasingly rare phenomenon. Often, these dogs are released to pursue and detain suspected criminals who are attempting to flee from police. Due to their size, intelligence and loyalty, the German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd are the most common breeds used for this purpose. While these breeds are fully trained and capable of sniffing and tracking, certain situations sometimes require the use of other breeds by police. For example, Beagles are sometimes used to sniff baggage in airports, due to their friendly appearance. While a properly trained German Shepherd is no less dangerous than a Beagle in reality, the smaller Beagle is used to avoid unnecessarily worrying airline customers who may have a fear of large dogs. Bloodhounds are also sometimes used due to their reputation as exceptional trackers, especially in missing persons cases where police are in search of a body. It is important to note, however, that these smaller breeds should only be used in situations where there is no possibility of confrontation with a dangerous criminal.
In the past century, police dogs have played an integral role in helping to maintain law and order in society. So valued are police dogs for their bravery and loyalty, that many are sworn in as official officers, and even given full police funerals in the event that they are killed in the line of duty. For the work they have done and the lives they have saved, police dogs have truly earned that honor.