Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Are German Shepherds Used as Police Dogs?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

german shepherd police dog

When we think of a police dog, a German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is the first that comes to mind for most of us. They are inexorably connected to the image of what a police dog should be, and the breed is ubiquitous as service dogs worldwide. What is so special about German Shepherd police dogs?

For one thing, GSDs are among the most intelligent dogs in the world, making them easy to train and highly loyal and trustworthy. They are also powerful, formidable animals that are calm under pressure and not overly aggressive, making them the perfect police partner. In this article, we’ll dive a little deeper into why German Shepherds are such good police animals.

divider 10

What are the qualities of a good police dog?

There are personality traits that a dog needs to possess to be a successful police dog, and learning what they are will help you understand why police so widely use German Shepherds. In the past, police used various breeds for police work, but they have been narrowed down to the German Shepherd as the breed of choice, along with the Belgian Malinois occasionally. However, what exactly makes a good police dog?

Police dogs need to have the following traits, which German Shepherds have in abundance:
  • Highly intelligent
  • Eager to please
  • Courageous
  • Protective
  • Athletic and agile
  • Powerful
  • Great sense of smell
  • Obedient
  • Loyal
alert police dog
Photo Credit: NSC Photography, Shutterstock

What Are the Toles of a Police Dog?

Those traits are essential for police dogs because of the various roles that they are needed for. The roles of police dogs are constantly growing and evolving, which is another reason that German Shepherds are the perfect dogs for the job.

With that in mind, there are four main roles of police dogs:
  • Search and rescue. In this capacity, police dogs search for criminal suspects or missing persons. They are also used in rescue situations, where they are used for their amazing sense of smell, helping locate victims of earthquakes, finding lost or missing persons, and discovering victims of fallen buildings.
  • Detection dogs are used for their powerful olfactory abilities to sniff out drugs, firearms, or explosives carried by suspects, as well as other illegal objects, like exotic animals or accelerants used in arson.
  • Cadaver dogs. These dogs can detect the odor of dead bodies. GSDs have such a powerful sense of smell that they can sniff bodies under piles of rubble or underwater.
  • These dogs are used for the general protection of the public to track down and apprehend criminals, rescue hostages, and locate crime suspects. Police dogs are trained to bite down on suspects and hold them hostage while officers arrest them.

Police Dog Training

Typically, police dogs need at least a year of training before they’re ready for deployment. With the average cost of a puppy used for police work as high as $2,500, along with the price of a year’s worth of training, it can be an expensive undertaking. This is another reason that German Shepherds are so suited for the job: They are adaptable dogs that can be trained to do just about anything, making their success rate in training higher than most breeds.

Police dogs go through various training, from agility to endurance, because they must be able to hike for miles at a time and jump over walls or climb long flights of stairs. Of course, basic command training and obedience are vital because they must obey their handler without any hesitation every time.

After these basic training methods, most police dogs receive specialty training. This could be for drug or bomb detection, tracking missing persons, or apprehension training.

Malinois dog and two German Shepherd dogs on duty with officers
Photo Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV, Shutterstock

Other popular police dog breeds

Due to their supreme adaptability and trainability, German Shepherds are the go-to choice as police dogs for most situations. However, some breeds are not as skilled with general tasks as the GSD and are trained for specific purposes. This could be because of their superior sense of smell, their speed or power, or simply their intelligence.

Divider 5

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds are among the most commonly used breeds for police work, and with their adaptability, intelligence, and loyalty, it’s easy to see why. Around the world, they’ve helped recover missing persons, kept the area safe by detecting explosives, and assisted police forces in apprehending criminals. While other breeds also make great police dogs, they are used more for specific jobs. That is why German Shepherds are the most widely used. They are incredibly adaptable and can be used for a wide variety of jobs.

See Also: 

Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database