Types of Dog and Training

Figure 1

Depending on the needs of a particular agency or group, individual dogs can be specially trained in a variety of areas. These specialty areas include: 1. Live search

  • patrol or police service dogs – used in criminal searches and police protection
  • wilderness – human scent-specific tracking, trailing (Figure 1), or air scent.
2. Specialty search dogs
  • Narcotics – identification of drugs
  • Explosives – powder residue, explosive scent
  • Arson (accelerant) – identification of accelerants associated with fire
  • Land cadaver (also referred to as human remains detection dogs) – human decomposition scent on land
  • Water cadaver – human decomposition scent in water
  • Articles – human scent on articles
  • Evidence – articles with decomposing human scent
  • Avalanche – human scent (either live or deceased) under snow
  • Disaster – human scent, live or dead, in natural disaster or one caused by humans
  • Other – organic material, preseizure detection, cancer detection.

Figure 2
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There are also multipurpose dogs, which are crosstrained in several of these areas. A single dog may be trained in areas of wilderness, cadaver, and articles. A trained cadaver dog may be used in land cadaver and/or water cadaver and may be trained for evidence (articles with decomposing human scent but not trained in article searches). Many police services dogs are cross-trained for apprehension work and narcotics, explosive, or cadaver detection (Figure 2). Depending on the specialty area of canine training, the breed of dog can vary widely, from a German Shepherd to a Jack Russell terrier. The dog should be receptive to training with a steady disposition and proven olfactory ability. It is generally recognized that some dogs are more suited for a particular task than others, such as the bloodhound used in wilderness searches. Working dogs are a combination of body build, stamina, and drive. They should be calm, bold, confident, and not too aggressive. Generally, the ideal breed falls into the working, herding, or sporting categories; however, no one breed is better than another. Temperature and terrain also affect the choices or types of dogs used in a particular location. Most working dogs must have significant stamina, especially in wilderness, patrol, or cadaver searches. There are many types of search performed by canine units. Each type requires special training, experience,andexpertise.Thesemayincludemissingorlost person’s searches, criminal searches, article searches, line searches, land cadaver searches, water cadaver searches, and evidence or article searches. A lost person will help you find them, whereas a missing person may not want to be found. An Alzheimer’s patient may not realize that he/she is missing or lost. Searches for dangerous criminals must be done carefully since safety for the team is a major priority. Different environments may also require different procedures and equipment for the search. There are some limitations for the search dog team. A dog cannot search many acres in one day. Dogs must be within a certain range from the scent source, depending on the scent source. There is a limit to the length of time the dog can work and this often depends on the dog, temperature, weather, and type of search. It is important to narrow down the search area and provide as much information as possible to the search team.

Figure 3


The initial training process can vary from a few weeks to a year, depending on the desired task(s). The training involves both the handler and the dog since the handler must be able to read the dog and the dog must be able to indicate to the handler its trained indication (alert). This trained alert can be active (digging, barking) or passive (sitting, lying down). Many agencies prefer a passive alert to prevent disturbance of a crime scene (i.e., explosive or article dogs). Other agencies use an active alert (i.e., narcotic or cadaver dogs) (Figure 3). The handler may capitalize on a natural reaction that the dog demonstrated when it was working on imprinting problems or the handler can pick a specific action for the dog to perform. Once initial training is completed, the K-9 team (one handler with one dog) should be evaluated and certified. Certification standards currently available for the K-9 teams are:

  • Those developed by the user agency
  • Standards developed by national K-9 associations (e.g., US Police Canine Association, North American Police Work Dog Association, National Association for Search and Rescue, and other groups)
  • Standards developed by a particular training authority (e.g., local volunteer search groups).
Certification evaluations should be conducted at regular intervals to maintain operational proficiency of the K-9 and handler. There are few states that have statewide search dog certification. A record must be kept of all training and operational evaluations. A subpoena may be issued in court cases for all training and operational records, along with certification evaluations of both the handler and search dog. A well-trained K-9 team can be an invaluable asset in a police investigation.