How to Keep Police Dogs in K-9 Units Ready for the Field

A police dog working with a handler in a K-9 unit is truly an extraordinary animal. These dogs are practically officers in their own right—they receive specialized police dog training and conditioning, and they form a close bond with their handler. Police dogs always strive to do the job they were trained to do, and they want to please their handler by doing it well. 

Keeping police dogs in peak physical condition is essential for ensuring that they can continue to do their jobs. Here’s what goes into training and protecting the health of these canines. 

What Makes Police Dogs Unique

Police dogs are not family pets, though they do form a close relationship with their handler and may retire as a family pet with that handler once their duty years are past. A police dog is born and bred to be a working member of the police force. It’s helpful to think of police dogs as elite athletes, because they train, work hard, and rest on days off just like an athlete in top shape. 

Police departments spend quite a bit of money to acquire and train a K-9 officer. In fact, it can cost up to $8,000 for a dog bred to serve, with police dog training running an additional $10,000 or more. As a result, it benefits the entire force and the community to look after the dog’s individual fitness and nutrition needs properly.

Keeping Police Dogs in Shape

Police Dog Training

A police dog goes through many rounds of specialized training before being assigned to a K-9 unit, and police dog training continues its years of service. All police dogs must master basic obedience training and learn to obey commands without question. Dogs bred meant for the police force must be socialized and learn to feel extremely comfortable in crowds and chaotic situations. Obviously, they will enter unpredictable conditions as a matter of course—they must trust their handler and react professionally in a variety of high-stress situations.

After basic obedience training, police dogs learn endurance and agility. A K-9 unit may have to cover a lot of ground, make their way through and over obstacles, and remain focused on the task at hand. 

Most police dogs will also receive specialized training, and many will learn to sniff out drugs or explosives. Dogs meant to find explosives, contraband at the airport, or drugs are trained and gradually become able to identify a specific scent because it pleases their handler. Once they correctly identify that scent, they receive a reward and positive reinforcement from their handler.

Police Dog Health Issues

Proper nutrition is paramount for police dogs and, while they live with their handler and his or her family in their off duty hours, police dogs are not begging at the table and should not get “people food.” Much like an athlete, a police dog requires a specialized diet tailored to a high-energy, active routine. 

A few specific breeds are particularly well-suited for police work, and you’ll often see German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois working as police dogs. Labrador retrievers are used for detection and scent work, and, of course, Bloodhounds are legendary for their noses and are used in detective units and for trailing work. 

Like many purebreds, police dogs are susceptible to some common health issues, so every police force needs to schedule regular veterinary care to ensure a long, healthy career for every K-9 officer. Police dogs are trained to perform and want to please their handlers, and so may hide pain and signs of stress just like a family pet might. In addition to a regular diet customized to the dog’s age, size, and fitness needs, supplements tailored to specific concerns may help to support peak mobility and strength for active, working dogs. 

The Life of a Working Dog

Dogs bred and trained to be police dogs will likely work for around ten years before being retired. A police dog will usually spend the rest of their days enjoying life as a family pet in their handling officer’s home. 

As a working dog ages and begins to take life a little easier, regular veterinary visits are still essential to catch any natural or unexpected health issues on the front end. Just like any other pet, a retired K-9 officer will benefit from food meant for the dog’s size and age, as well as regular exercise and mental stimulation. Police dogs may also benefit from supplements made with natural ingredients that are specially formulated to promote well-being, joint health, and mobility into old age.

Support Your Canine Companion Through the Years with Wapiti

Wapiti Labs produces high-quality supplements for dogs using natural ingredients like Elk Velvet Antler from our own elk farm, where the animals graze in a pristine natural environment. Our formulas support overall wellness and normal function of the joints, liver, kidneys, immune system, and more. Whether your police dog is just beginning their career or is nearing the end of their service, our strength and mobility supplements can act as the perfect complement to a canine’s healthy lifestyle. We look forward to helping you keep your partner healthy at every stage of life! Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

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