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How to Train Your Dog Like Law Enforcement

If you want a well-trained dog, then following the techniques of police and law enforcement canine training is an excellent place to start. Though K9 units typically revolve around the use of specific breeds, such as German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois, for particular law enforcement practices, the core of K9 training applies to all dogs. Police dogs must consistently and diligently follow all commands, respect their owners, and function in social settings, especially in particularly harrowing ones. Anyone who is attempting to train a puppy, welcome a new dog into the home, or break an old dog's habits, having the ability to command your dog's behavior is appreciated. Whether you're new to the dog training world or looking for alternative tactics for a stubborn pup, we'll delve into the background, approach, and nuances of how to train your dog like law enforcement.

Most common Police dog breeds and their characteristics

The specific roles that police dogs perform are tracking/detection, apprehension, and search and rescue. Some police dogs are also used for crowd control purposes, and quite often, police dogs are trained to perform more than one of these roles. Given the nature of police work and the nature of K9 police work, there are specific dog breeds whose character suits these roles best.

The German Shepherd is perhaps the most iconic breed used for police work. German Shepherds are exceptionally agile with high endurance, which is suitable for pursuing criminals. They are very loyal, well-trained, and aggressive on command, which serves them well for apprehending criminals. They are also calm, focused, and attentive to details, which is useful for crowd control and tracking purposes. Given this versatile skill set, it's easy to see why German Shepherds are the default choice for law enforcement purposes.

Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherds are very similar in form and capability to German Shepherds. They are both originally herding dogs, as was the German Shepherd, which is why they both tend to be protective with the ability to pursue a target, capacities well-served for pursuing and detaining suspects. They are both athletic and intelligent, making them well-suited to being commanded in the field.

Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers are also well-suited for various aspects of police work. Doberman Pinschers were initially bred for security purposes, and Rottweilers were originally bred for herding cattle, making them suitable for apprehension purposes. They are both physically adept and train well, however, given their shorter coat, are not as durable and rugged as the aforementioned herding dogs.

For tracking and detection purposes, Bloodhounds and Labradors are considered to be some of the most coveted police dogs. They both have finely-tuned senses of smell, persistent, and capable of functioning in various climates. Given that they are more suited for detection purposes or search and rescue, they are often used in these roles versus other police work aspects.

Benefits of police training for the average dog owner

While police training has a very specific application, there are uses of police training that serve these dogs well in the civilian capacity. First, these dogs provide excellent security services. German Shepherds have the most iconic look as far as intimidation is concerned, but, given the large size of these dogs and their equally abundant bark, they all can make intruders think twice before entering your property. Second, given these dogs highly trained sense of smell, they can perform various tracking or detection services. These dogs can help relocate missing or wandering family members with Alzheimer's, Dementia, or even young non-verbal children. These dogs can also help detect any medical abnormalities, such as low blood sugar levels in people with diabetes or the onset of seizures. Lastly, these dogs can all be highly trained and are good around people, particularly young children, making them great companions for developmentally disadvantaged children, such as children with Autism. These are just some of the various characteristics that help dogs typically used for police work function admirably as everyday dogs.

Steps to train your dog like Law Enforcement

Aside from employing basics like choosing the right breed for your way of life and choosing the best puppy, preliminary steps taken for most police dogs, the core of training your dog like a K9 dog is to start early, train often, and use abundant reinforcement.

When to start training your dog

Interestingly, some trainers advocate beginning police training when the dog is between 12 and 15 months. Since you probably aren't willing to wait to deter negative behavior like chewing or leash pulling. Many basic commands can begin as early as 8 weeks of age, with more formal training introduced at around 4-6 months of age. The key to this early training stage is to tailor the training to your dog. If you're starting young, keep training sessions short, around 10-15 minutes. During this time, feature a lot of repetition with many rewards. One key to dog training is to recognize what rewards motivate your dog most. Police training for dogs features a lot of tug-of-war to reward dogs for proper scent detection, so whether your dog likes a similar reward or appreciates food more, make sure to use the greatest reward during your training sessions. Some trainers even advocate only feeding your dog during training sessions, but it's best to reserve this technique for when your dog is more mature and has a greater ability to concentrate.

What to focus on when training

When training any dog, especially for police work, the key is to have simple, consistent commands that you repeat over and over. Repetition is critical during dog training, especially for law enforcement purposes. Start slow with simple commands such as "Sit" or "stay." You may also find that using sounds, such as whistles, clickers, or yells, in addition to non-verbal hand signals, may help your dog to concentrate more. It's always good to use traditional verbal commands to be more universal and easily recognized for domestic dogs. Still, it's also good to work other signals into your training regimen to diversify the environments in which your dog can behave. Regardless, when training, you want to make sure that you immediately reward your dog as soon as they perform the command and repeat it. Try and repeat the command at least 3-5 times before moving onto a play session or another command.

How to get the most on your training sessions

Dogs are amazing creatures in their ability to learn, but, like humans, they need motivation and the ability to digest their training sessions. K9 training experts advocate working play and abundant breaks into your training sessions, especially as your dog is maturing and you are lengthening your training sessions. As your dog is getting older, try and increase your training sessions at least 10-15 minutes for every 3 months they age. For example, a one-year-old dog should be trained for at least 40-60 minutes 2-3 times a week. Ideally, more is better, and more frequently is best, but given the focused nature of training and having to fit it into a busy schedule, it's best to consolidate the sessions. Feel free to train throughout the day when you can, as the repetition and reinforcement for any training dog is beneficial.

Most importantly, however, you want to make sure that your dog is enjoying the training sessions. If you are training for 10 minutes, take a one-minute break every 5 minutes to play with your dog, let your dog run around, or even go for a brief walk. Your pup is probably high energy and will have difficulty directing their energy during the training session, especially when they are young. However, if you work, play, and exercise into the training sessions, you will help keep your dog engaged, and they will feel that training is an opportunity to have fun.

Training your dog long-term

Mastering basic commands like "sit," "stay," "heal," and "come" are essential to any well-trained dog. However, for the sake of your dog and the sake of your well-being, it's best to keep your dog as well-trained as possible. Interestingly, when you make training fun, dogs are willing to be trained as much as possible. Likewise, introducing new commands helps your dog to stay intellectually engaged and find training sessions meaningful. Hopefully, once you master these basic commands around 1-1.5 years of age, start introducing more challenging commands. You can practice fetching or retrieving, walking off-leash, weaving, or controlled barking. There are a variety of tricks and commands you can teach your dog, and advanced commands are dependent on your preferences, too. As with your initial training, introduce these commands gradually, make the training consistent and offer abundant rewards. You will find that your dog will respond well and will prove to be a loyal canine.

With the right breed, patience and consistency, your dog should be highly trained like those in Law Enforcement in no time. There are always exceptions to the rule, as we see below with the police dog training reject!

If after all of this, the idea of such rigorous and time-consuming training overwhelms you, and you have yet to get the puppy of your dreams, would you consider adopting a retired working dog? If so, we highly recommend Mission K9 Rescue.

Never had a German Shepherd? Then read our article here on what to expect when adopting a German Shepherd.

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