German shepherd dogs are a magnificent breed that has captured the imagination of dog enthusiasts and the general public alike. However, even among them, there is a privileged position that can be claimed by only a few among them.
Yes, you have guessed that right!
It is the privilege to serve in the man-dog K9 teams of the police department that really makes these few special German shepherds stand out from the rest.
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About the K9
K9 are the police office-dog special units in the police departments that are aimed at employing the canine superpowers of outstanding olfactory sense as well as their trailblazing speed to fight crime and restore justice in society. Interestingly K9 is derived from the English and French word canine (CA-NINE) and their usage dates back to the early 1940s.
Now that we have got you all wound up, here are a few insider notes on how police train their German shepherd dogs:
Selection of the Fittest
I am sure you must be aware of Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest and his theory of ‘Natural selection’.
The Police department works on the same principle. It selects the best pups among the German shepherds who show early signs of being an athletic genius among its various breeds.
German shepherds are one of the most popular dogs selected by the police department, although they do have competition from Belgian Malinois and the Bloodhound.
German shepherd pups who display extraordinary intelligence, agility, and control are handpicked to form a part of the batch of student pups that undergo training at the police academy. Although most of them manage to pass with flying colors, a few pups are known to flunk the police examination, in case they get too complacent. It’s our nation’s security that we are talking about, after all!
The selection procedure is taken so seriously that specific breeders are often zeroed down to provide their German Shepherd pups for police service. Also, GSD pups from European breeders are highly considered for this purpose as compared to those of American descent. This is probably because the training certification for German shepherd dogs in Europe is of high credibility.
The pups are selected and ready to undergo training by the time they are 8 weeks old.
Early socialization of German shepherd dogs is very important so that they learn not to perceive everything and everyone as a threat.
One of the criteria for choosing German shepherds for police work is that they should show ample aggression. This is the reason why male German shepherd dogs are preferred and why they are mostly left unneutered.
However, reigning in this aggression is equally important. It may otherwise cause heavy damage to civilian life and property.
The police dog must be able to handle crowds without getting too aggressive. It is thus required that dog is exposed to multiple people and situations so that he does not lose his head easily.
It is also very important that the dog forms an inseparable bond with the human officer assigned to him. The police officers and the German shepherd dogs assigned to them have to stay together 24X7, 7days a week. The efficiency of the combined K9 unit is thus based on the work chemistry between its two individual units.
Only the best of officers are honored with a position in the K9 unit. The bond between the two is held so significantly that in some countries, the dog gets to stay with his officer even post-retirement.
Thus, early socialization of the German shepherd dog can help him in forming a close bond with his officer in the later stages.
This is probably one of the most important parts of German shepherd training for police purposes.
The German shepherd dog should be able to follow the exact commands of his officer all the time. This requires rigorous training and repetition.
This has to be accompanied by positive reinforcement in form of his favorite snacks and treats every time he gets the command right. A loud cry of encouragement or a high five can also do the trick. And you definitely have to keep the weight in check. After all, it’s a police dog, not your average Joe German shepherd.
Among the various training processes, Bark training is of huge significance for a German shepherd dog that is to be inducted into the services.
The dogs often use their barking to raise the alarm when danger is approaching. It can also be used to intimidate a stranger. The officer should thus be able to control the barking of his dog as and when required. The ‘Speak and Quiet’ method is a good barking training technique.
Speak and Quiet method
In the method, you have to forcefully give the ‘speak’ command to your dog. You have to then give him a treat every time he barks on your command. Do not give him the treat if he barks earlier or later than your command. Similarly, give the ‘Quiet’ command loudly when you want him to stop barking. Likewise, follow it up with a treat for correct behavior.
Here is a myth buster for you! Many people believe that the commands are spoken in a code language so that the dog and officer have a secret channel of communication between them while being under attack by an invader.
However, this is far from the truth. As mentioned, many police German shepherds undergo training in European countries and thus, learn their basic commands in a foreign tongue. It is just easier to continue with the terminology rather than retrain the dog in English!
German shepherd dogs of course have to undergo rigorous physical training if they aspire for a career in the police. These include jumping a six feet fence and strenuous running. Apart from that, they also undergo specialized training in scent tracking and bomb detection.
Police German shepherd dogs are sometimes specifically earmarked for drug tracking or bomb detection, although all of them are expected to have basic know-how in this matter.
The Scent Training
The scent training basically revolves around getting the dog to associate the scent of his favorite toys with those of drugs.
The trainer starts with playing with the dog with a toy until the dog gets used to it. He then starts rubbing the toys with various drugs and continues with the playtime.
Finally, he starts hiding the toy in various places. The dog then tries to sniff his favorite toy out and is rewarded when he accomplishes this task.
The procedure is repeated several times and the complexity of the task is slowly increased. But not to worry, our canine friend has a scent of smell that is fifty times stronger than his human companion and he can scan an area faster than ten police officers working together.
Active and Passive Alert
The German shepherd dog is also taught Active and Passive methods to alert their officers. The active ones include barking and digging in heals while tracing a drug. The passive ones may involve sitting or standing straight while picking the intended scent. You sure don’t want your German shepherd’s foot to mess up a wire with too much active posturing if there is a hidden bomb in question!
The level of training these German shepherds have to go to become our canine protectors is commendable. A civilian dog owner cannot achieve the same level of expertise because the police training is filled with a curriculum filled with nuances and technicalities to get the German Shepherd battle-ready.
However, a few pointers from here and there can help us better our training methodologies with our German shepherd. This is especially true if we want them to train them specifically to be guarding dogs.
On an end note, let us tell you about the most famous police dog who later become a huge movie star and featured in more than 200 motion pictures-Rin Tin Tin. Guess, the police training does have more than one uses!