7 Reasons German Shepherds Are Used As Police Dogs

German Shepherds are the go-to, crime-fighting canine! Whether you have seen them in movies or real life, this intelligent breed is the most loyal to a police officer’s partner.

So, why are German Shepherds used as police dogs? This loyal breed is obedient, calm under pressure, and will do anything they can to defend the lives of their cop compadres. They train quickly and are eager to abide by their partner’s instructions.

Why Is The German Shepherd Used As A Police Dog?

The main reason that officers use German Shepherds as police dogs is because of their intelligence. German Shepherds can retain knowledge much quicker than other breeds. Furthermore, the German Shepherd has excessive energy, and they are eager to please their companions.

Whether they are learning a new specialty technique or in the field completing police work, German Shepherds aim to make their partners proud.

German Shepherds have many applications in the field, like their optimal tracking abilities. This breed is fast, with a faster running speed than humans and a sharp bite that can rip chunks from human flesh.

From the wrong breeder, the German Shepherd can be unpredictable. However, police officers purchase their dogs from trusted breeders and train their German Shepherds to obey precise commands. The strict and obedient behavior of these dogs makes them the perfect contender for enforcing the law.

“Remain Calm…”

Remaining calm in the middle of dangerous situations is critical for a police dog. The obedient German Shepherd is naturally observant and has no problem staying calm in stressful situations. This calm behavior stems from the German Shepherd’s impulse control.


German Shepherds are highly obedient and loyal to their police officer partners. While other breeds may act without commands, the German Shepherd abides by their partner’s instructions. The German Shepherd does not act on its own, even in over-stimulating situations like chases, until they are issued an order by their companion.


German Shepherds are built lean, stout, and an extremely active breed who can run around 30 miles per hour. Their agility and running speed make them an apex predator to even the fastest human. This canine breed is known to track down perpetrators quickly and efficiently.


The German Shepherd is one of the smartest canine breeds. When training a police dog in a specialty such as detecting narcotics, officers must employ an intelligent dog like the German Shepherd. This breed is hyper-intelligent and laser-focused, which makes detection and other special functions fool-proof.

Bite Power  

The biting power of the German Shepherd is painful and unyielding. Until an officer gives them the proper command, these dogs will not release their torturous grip. In most cases, their 238 PSI bite is enough to stop any criminal dead in their tracks.

Extraordinary Smelling Abilities

Most police work with German Shepherds involves their extraordinary smelling abilities. The German Shepherd’s ability to detect scent ranges anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 better than a human’s. This extraordinary scent detection helps them with police work like finding missing people and locating illegal narcotics.


The German Shepherd is an intelligent dog who can become trained in multiple specialties. That means that police can train K-9 units to sniff out and identify numerous things at a time. German Shepherds are one of the few dog breeds that are capable of continuously processing information.

History Of German Shepherds In Police Work

Captain Max von Stephanitz of the German Army began breeding the German Shepherd in the 1900s. Stephanitz is often considered the father of German Shepherds. At first, they began as police dogs for the German people. German Shepherds made a quick mark on the German criminal justice system. Eventually, the ferocious dog served loyally in the military.

After noting the German’s successes with this powerful new canine breed, Americans adopted it for themselves. Flashforward and German Shepherds premiered as the first dog in combat by assisting soldiers in World War I. These dogs have continued their war efforts to this day, sniffing explosives and tracking scents.

Following their aid in the US Military, American’s officially made the German Shepherd a part of their police force. Since inducting them as official members of their police force over one hundred years ago, German Shepherds have remained loyal companions to their partners.

Now, after over one hundred years, the German Shepherd has become the most popular police dog in the world. German Shepherds are even featured in movies and entertainment to pay respect to fallen police officers.

In America, the German Shepherd is bred to be a loyal friend of man. Many modern families own German Shepherds as ‘guard dogs,’ with decreasing PSI because USA breeders do not have pedigree standards.

European breeders continue breeding with high pedigree standards. The European breeding practice has allowed the German Shepherds to keep to their roots and therefore have maintained a quicker and more agile dog fit to become a K-9 unit.

german shepherd police dogGerman Shepherd Dogs Police Applications

The general purpose of K-9 police units is to accompany their police officer partners and team members in the field. As a K-9 police unit, The German Shepherd’s strong sense of smell helps them complete various incredible tasks. Police dogs are active participants in detecting narcotics, firearms, and a variety of illegal substances.

German Shepherds are not limited to detection. Their role as a K-9 unit in the police force is expansive, including suspect apprehension. This breed has a sharp and painful bite with a PSI of 238. The brutal force of the German Shepherds acts as a strong deterrent for criminals.

A direct force method is not used with a German Shepherd K-9 unit unless the release of the dog is from a short distance or they know they are unarmed.

German Shepherds are highly intelligent dogs with optimal retention. This sophisticated breed is highly trainable, and it takes very little time to soak in new commands. In addition, once a German Shepherd picks something up, they will not forget that piece of information.

Unfortunately, without physical evidence, most applications of police dog detection are not admissible in court. Instead, they work alongside their human partners to help them take down bad guys.

General Purpose 

Before training canines in anything else, police dogs go through general-purpose training to learn basic commands and bond with their partner. General-purpose training for police dogs includes suspect apprehension and defense. The strong and ruthless bite of the German Shepherd acts as a first line of defense against unarmed criminals. In many cases, this leads to surrender because of the painful and brutal bite.

Drug Detection

When people think of police dogs, they often think of drug-sniffing dogs. Often referred to as “drug sniffer dogs,” these German Shepherds are trained in sniffing narcotics. Some police stations choose to specialize the substances, and in other cases, they train the dogs in a variety of drug odors.

Cadaver Dogs

Cadaver dogs have the role of detecting human remains. Police officers and detectives only call on these specially-trained dogs when searching for the remains of people. In most cases, these are missing persons in suspected homicide cases.

Bomb Detection

A less common application for police force dogs is explosives detection. Given the specialty, bomb detection dogs are only brought to investigate in severe circumstances. Bomb dogs sniff lockers, packages in transit, vehicles, hollow objects, and much more.

Scent Detection

Typically, the most common use for K-9 units is scent tracking. German Shepherd K-9 units are great at scent-tracking because of their strong nose and hyper-focus. The German Shepherd’s scent tracking leads to finding missing people, catching suspects, finding hidden locations, and much more.

Search and Rescue

Search and rescue training is an intensive training that teaches K-9 units to respond and rescue missing persons. When people go missing in the woods, are trapped in unreachable places, or cannot be found by the human nose, K-9 units are the ones to call. German Shepherds learn how to react, signal, and save humans while training as search and rescue K-9s.

Police trained German Shepherd

How Long Does Police Dog Training Take?

The amount of training police dogs require may vary depending on their job and jurisdiction, but typically the minimum that police dog training requires is eight months. In general, a dog is considered ready to be an active part of the police force after a minimum of eight months of training. However, specialty fieldwork can extend their training longer than a year.

In hindsight, training a German Shepherd to be a K-9 police unit does not take long. However, complex roles like explosives sniffing or cadaver sniffing may increase the time it takes to train.

Learning time varies for each task, dog, and trainer. Police often choose German Shepherds because they have no difficulty picking up on things the first time around, no matter their temperament.

Because K-9 pairs are already required to meet monthly training quotas, it can be beneficial to complete specialized training during this time. Officers can select which training is most beneficial to them, or their department may assign them a specialty based on necessity.

In many cases, narcotics and explosives detection are highly recommended additions. Not all dogs get additional certifications. However, it does make them more useful in the field. Certifications like explosives or narcotics detection make an officer and their unit more valuable.

The more training a police officer provides their German Shepherd K-9 partner, the more they will thrive in the field. Additional training makes them a better asset to the officer and a better combatant to criminals. Training time also provides officers more bonding time with their German Shepherd.

How to Train German Shepherds as a Police Dog

Police force training begins when German Shepherds are still puppies. It is a rigorous process that first requires a lot of department or government funding. Successfully training a German Shepherd police K-9 unit costs the police department between $15,000 to $20,000.

Because of the high cost, many police departments rely on community funding when adopting a new police pup. The prices might seem high when you look at them from afar, but when police departments adopt these German Shepherds, they become a part of the team!

Training begins at around six weeks old and lasts anywhere from one to two years long. German Shepherds are trainable, eager to learn, and have massive knowledge retention. The earlier a police officer begins training their K-9 puppy, the more efficient they will be in the field.

The high intelligence of this breed allows the German Shepherd to learn even the most complex things. German Shepherds absorb information quickly, which allows them to act confidently, not impulsively like many other breeds.

Purchase from European Breeder

Police officers typically purchase their German Shepherd puppies from Europe because of the strict pedigree requirements. In the United States, these requirements are not as strict and have led to breeding less powerful dogs. Purchasing from a European breeder is more expensive, but these dogs are fit for police work and will train easier in the long run.

General Training

At six weeks old, the German Shepherd will begin their “basic training” at the police academy. Basic training prepares them for their general purposes and instills obedience. Only K-9 trainers or trained police officer handlers can train police force K-9 units.

Handler and K-9 Pairing

After learning basic training, K-9’s and handlers will be paired together. The handler and K-9 pairing stage of the German Shepherd’s police training is essential for forming a strong bond. In some cases, the paired handler might be the K-9’s trainer. In this case, the German Shepherd and the officer will have already started the training process together.

Handler and K-9 Training

Once paired together, handlers and K-9s will begin training together. Partnership training includes commands and testing compatibility. During this time, handlers also learn all responsibilities required when handling a German Shepherd K-9 unit.

Street Ready

A K-9 team is “street-ready” when they have received at least their base certification. Although the pair is considered “street-ready,” the pair must maintain 16 hours minimum training per month. Continuous training keeps them ready for anything that may happen while they are on the streets.

Familiarization Training

As a general rule of thumb, all police officers should be familiar with any K-9 in their unit and vice versa. Familiarization training is similar to pairing. During this time, handlers allow a K-9 to familiarize themselves with their police family and build trust with the whole K-9 police team.

Ongoing Training (Conditioning) 

The training will never end when it comes to maintaining good health in the K-9 and officer partnership. Police officers condition and train with their police dogs avidly to stay healthy. In addition to their own health, the officer must maintain the dog’s physical health as well.

Want To Train Your Dog With Peace Of Mind?

If you haven’t trained your dog properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases, it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to trust your dog completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT.

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So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

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What Type Of German Shepherd Do Police Use?

Police officers often use German Shepherds that are from Europe because they are better suited for police work. European-bred German Shepherds are more intelligent because they are under strict pedigree regulations. German Shepherds also have different physical appearances.

Why Do Police Use German Shepherds and Not Pitbulls?

German Shepherds are easier to train and more obedient than Pitbulls. In the face of danger, Pitbulls are more likely to act autonomously. Acting on their own can jeopardize the entire police force.

Do Police Dogs Have To Be German Shepherds?

Police dogs do not have to be German Shepherds. However, the German Shepherd is the most common dog because of its many abilities and skills. Common breeds used in the field include Labrador Retrievers, Beagle, Dobermann, and Dutch Shepherd.


Police officers often train German Shepherds as police dogs because of their high intelligence and obedience. Generally, canines have a great sense of smell. When it comes to German Shepherds, they are no exception. German Shepherds make a great asset to the police force because they have an easier time detecting drugs, guns, and missing people than humans because of their fine-tuned sense of smell.

The speed and agility of this canine breed also make them one of the best breeds for taking down criminals. Since the 1900s, this breed has been taking down criminals by the side of their police partners. K-9 units are one of the most effective units at taking down criminals because of how effective these units are.

German Shepherds are eager to learn new things, which makes training them easy. Not to mention how quick these dogs learn. German Shepherds can pick up on police training quicker than almost any other dog breed, which is another reason why they are such great police dogs.

At a minimum, German Shepherds are field-ready after at least eight months of training. However, additional training is typically required before German Shepherds can actually enter the field with their partners. Officers must train with their K-9 partner daily and devote ample time to teach and take care of a K-9 unit. After teaching their K-9s proper police etiquette, these teams are built to be unstoppable!