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12 Police Dog Breeds: Pictures, Facts & History

Chris Dinesen Rogers

By Chris Dinesen Rogers

police dog with muzzle and leash

Dogs are a diverse group of domesticated animals, with 378 recognized by the Centrale Canine.1 The large number reflects the various purposes canines serve for humans. Being a police dog is only one of many roles. That explains the diversity you see in the different breeds, from the petite but feisty Chihuahua to the gentle giant of the Great Dane.

One of the many jobs that dogs perform is in law enforcement. However, there are many positions within that title. Some are protectors that tap into the pup’s courage and loyalty. Others require dogs to use their superior sense of smell for tracking. It’s safe to say that some breeds are better suited to these roles than others, and our guide covers some of the best of the pack.

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How Are Police Dogs Classified?

There isn’t a formal classification for police dogs. Instead, certain breeds prove worthwhile and capable in these roles. Many common denominators exist. A King Charles Cavalier Spaniel isn’t going to inspire fear or respect from perpetrators. Likewise, a dog must have the personality traits that are compatible with this work. However, K9s are typically classified as either detection or patrol dogs.2

Loyalty, courage, and an eagerness to please stand out as the best. The breeders of these animals must also have good parent stock and conduct the recommended health screenings. Of course, proper veterinary care is also imperative. After all, many health conditions are sporadic and not necessarily congenital or hereditary.

The 12 Police Dog Breeds

1.  Belgian Malinois

senior belgian malinois close up
Image Credit: Jessi et Nono, Shutterstock
Origin: Belgian
Height: 22–26 inches
Weight: 40–80 pounds

The Belgian Malinois is a handsome dog that exudes confidence. Enthusiasts selectively bred this pup for herding, of which they succeeded admirably. That accounts for the breed’s protective nature. This canine may come across as aloof, which is their independence showing. They are energetic and hardworking animals, well-suited to their role as police dogs.

2. Bernese Mountain Dog

bernese mountain dog standing in the meadow
Image Credit: SubertT, Shutterstock
Origin: Switzerland
Height: 23–27.5 inches
Weight: 70–115 pounds

The Bernese Mountain Dog has a commanding presence with their massive size. That makes them a formidable deterrent to anyone who may cross them. The breed began as an all-purpose farm dog with the strength and obedience to carry out various tasks. This pup is affectionate with their family but keeps a watchful eye on strangers. They also have a military history that goes back to the Romans.

3. Bloodhound

bloodhound and orange kitten together
Image Credit: perezoo, Shutterstock
Origin: Unknown, but likely the Mediterranean basin
Height: 23–27 inches
Weight: 80–110 pounds

When you think of a dog with an excellent sense of smell, the Bloodhound is probably the animal that comes to mind. Canines far exceed humans in this capacity, with over 100 million olfactory receptors to our 6 million. Law enforcement typically uses this breed for the detection of either explosives or narcotics. They are also vital for search-and-rescue operations and finding criminals.

4. Border Collie

Border collie lying on the bed
Image Credit: Kuznetsov Alexey, Shutterstock
Origin: Great Britain
Height: 18–22 inches
Weight: 30–55 pounds

The Border Collie brings several essential traits to law enforcement. They are probably the most intelligent canines, making them suitable for various tasks. They are also tireless at their jobs with boundless energy. Their early ancestors trace their history to the Romans and Vikings, where they served many roles, particularly as herders protective of their charges. They serve as detection animals today.

5. Bouvier des Flanders

Bouvier des Flandres
Image Credit: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock
Origin: Modern-day Belgium, Netherlands, and France
Height: 23.5–27.5 inches
Weight: 70–110 pounds

The Bouvier des Flanders is a fearless and intelligent dog. The breed’s history with the military goes back to World War I. Their strength and size made them excellent draft animals. They also served with the troops in the field, alerting soldiers to danger. This protective nature makes this dog a fitting choice for law enforcement. They are eager to please and courageous.

6. Cane Corso

blue brindle cane corso puppy
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock
Origin: Greek islands
Height: 23.5–27.5 inches
Weight: 100+ pounds

The Cane Corso is one dog that makes an entrance. This dog is large and muscular. It’s an ancient breed with a history that goes back thousands of years. These canines served many roles, including guardians. That makes them an excellent choice for a patrol canine. This dog is easy to train with the energy to keep up with their duties.

7. Doberman Pinscher

doberman pinscher dog in the forest
Image Credit: Daria Shvetcova, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Height: 24–28 inches
Weight: 60–100 pounds

The Doberman Pinscher naturally has a protective nature, making it another potential patrol K9. They have many qualities that are ideal for this position. These dogs are intelligent and easy to train. They are also hardworking and energetic. The breed has a long history of military and police work because of these traits.

8. Dutch Shepherd

Dutch shepherd puppy
Image Credit: Viktorija Zar, Shutterstock
Origin: The Netherlands
Height: 21.5–24.5 inches
Weight: 42–75 pounds

The Dutch Shepherd isn’t as well-known as many breeds on our list. Nevertheless, this dog has a solid reputation in police work. This dog took on many roles, including herder and watchdog. They even pulled carts. They are easy to train and highly intelligent. These canines also work in search and rescue and tracking. The Dutch Shepherd is a loyal companion and fiercely protective for patrol duties.

9. German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd on a walk on a sunny winter day with Frisbee
Image Credit: J. Romanova, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Height: 22–26 inches
Weight: 50–90 pounds

German Shepherd Dogs carry themselves like they mean business. It’s a fitting description for this courageous and intelligent canine. Captain Max von Stephanitz promoted the breed first as a herder and then for military and police work. This dog is affectionate with their owners but wary of strangers. They are confident animals that will back up their bark if needed.

10. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever dog standing on the lawn
Image Credit: Radomir Rezny, Shutterstock
Origin: United Kingdom
Height: 21.5–24.5 inches
Weight: 55–80 pounds

The Labrador Retriever may not be the first breed you think of when it comes to police dogs. Their intelligence and high energy make them fitting choices in this capacity. Their keen sense of smell allows them to work in detection and search and rescue. They are adaptable animals and loyal companions. Their sweet disposition gives them an ideal cover for work in public places.

11. Neapolitan Mastiff

grey and black neapolitan mastiff puppies
Image Credit: Fomin Serhii, Shutterstock
Origin: Italy
Height: 24–31 inches
Weight: 110–150 pounds

The Neapolitan Mastiff has a protective nature to match their intimidating appearance as a patrol dog. The breed’s initial roles were guardians for estates and military canines for the Roman army, accompanying them on many of their missions. They are loyal animals with the brawn to back up their barking alerts. This breed requires an experienced trainer for police work.

12. Rottweiler

rottweiler dog sitting on concrete ground
Image Credit: Serova_Ekaterina, Shutterstock
Origin: 15th century in Shetland Island, Scotland
Height: 22–27 inches
Weight: 80–135 pounds

The Rottweiler is a no-nonsense dog when it comes to K9 duties. They approach their job confidently and steadfastly. The breed’s history also goes back to Roman times when they served in the military alongside soldiers in battle. Today, they work as patrol dogs and are excellent animals for search-and-rescue work.

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Many breeds have proven their versatility for more than the purpose for which they were selectively bred. Most of the dogs on our list had other jobs that gave them the skills to succeed in law enforcement. Humans may not have realized their full potential when they first domesticated canines. However, these animals have more than earned their place as man’s best friend.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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