by Sandra Allen Lovelace      @SandraALovelace      #WallflowerWomen

Surely you’ve seen a Blue Dog, at least on TV or in a film, if not in person. They come in the form of a K-9 Team, a partnership with a police officer. Without a doubt their daily life is much less glamorous yet may be just as dramatic. While we consider our dog a precious pet or family member, these law enforcement professionals are together from duty to days-off and into retirement. Gaining a bit of perspective on their history and context produces a fresh level of appreciation and respect.

It’s fascinating to learn that early cultures such as the Greeks and Babylonians used dogs for protection and to enforce their laws. And records show that in the 1300s townspeople in Europe contributed to the care of a local constable’s bloodhound he used to track outlaws.

By the 1800s with the urbanization of the Industrial Revolution, private organizations in Europe were providing dogs to their night watchmen for protection. This practice led to the first police canine unit being organized in Ghent, Belgium in 1899. The idea spread across Europe with England using police dogs to stop a ring of thieves in 1908, and Germany opening the first training school in 1920. Not surprisingly, the German shepherd was the breed of choice.

Though dogs were first used for law enforcement in New York City in 1907, the US didn’t opened their arms to the concept until the 1970s. Canines quickly became an integral part of the police force nationwide and have taken on a wide variety of responsibilities: suspect detection and apprehension, search and rescue, drug and explosive detection, sentry and security. Today many departments confirm their commitment to their canines by awarding them badges and the title of police officer.

A number of breeds have been used in police work, but the current choices in the US are the Malinois, Beagle, Bloodhound, and German Shepherd pictured above. Bassets and Labradors are also popular. Their assignment to protect and serve their communities carries the same dangers of injury and death as their handlers. And indeed, many have suffered knife and bullet wounds, and death. During this Year of The Blue, let’s agree to greet these canine professionals with the same appreciation and respect we want to nurture for their human counterparts.

If you’re as intrigued as I became in my research for this article, here are a few resources for you to enjoy.

National Police Dog Foundation promotes education and awareness, and raises funds for the purchase, training, and ongoing veterinary care for active and retired police K-9s.

Sound Off Signal offers an article on Police Dogs and How They Are Trained.

Protect Paws Alive provides lifesaving K-9 equipment such as bullet and stab-proof vests, first aid kits, vehicle heat alarms, cooling vests, and pet oxygen mask kits to Law Enforcement, Fire, Search & Rescue, EMS, and Military nationwide.

CrimeWire carries an excellent article with 22 Incredible Facts You Need to Know About K9 Police Dogs.

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3 Comments

  1. Amazing creatures! I have been working for Nestle Purina PetCare for 26 years & it always thrills me to see our support of these special organizations committed to service dogs. For instance, our Dog Chow brand supported the National Police Dog Foundation last year and this year its ARF’s Pets For Vets.

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