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An Abbreviated History of K-9 Crime Fighters

 by zack on 17 May 2013 |
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There’s just something fascinating about a crime fighting animal. Human beings have been depending on dogs to help protect life and property for thousands of years, and in the 21st century we’ve gotten it down to a science.

The modern police dog has its roots in the latter half of 19th century Germany, with the establishment of the German shepherd breed. However, official records of police dog usage date all the way back to medieval England. Not even the late middle ages either, but way back in the 12th century. When Europe was still crawling out of the dark ages, dog kennels were being maintained by local constables to track down outlaws.

Many of these early police dogs were used more as a deterrent than for actual police work. Knowing that their liege lord had a stable filled with hungry, ill-tempered blood hounds was enough to make most unarmed citizenry wary of breaking any of the local laws. That’s another thing, the sweet temperament and cute floppy ears of today’s bloodhounds are a rather recent introduction into the breed’s bloodline. Back in the 1100 AD, when they were 800+ years closer to still being wolves, blood hounds were savage and disobedient. Although they still had their remarkable ability to track scents even through dense marshy terrains. 

England has a humorous history of K-9 usage. In the year 1914, London constables were allowed to bring their personal pets along with them on patrol. Dogs were still considered helpful in police work, but setting aside portions of the budget for training was viewed as wasteful. This led to a colorfully assorted group of police dogs. There were terriers, retrievers, sheepdogs, collies, mongrels, spaniels, plus one sassy Pomeranian.

Nowadays that sort of thing wouldn’t fly in most precincts. Maybe as a mascot, but otherwise you’re dealing with some seriously skilled and well-bred K-9 crime fighters. The list of breeds used in police work is extensive but the most common types are German Shepherds, Belgian Malanois, Dutch Shepherds, Argentine Dojos, and Boxers. They are mostly gigantic (100 to 150 lbs. /45 to 68 kg.) animals with excellent temperaments, and intelligence to spare.

These dogs are used in detection, tracking, protection, search and rescue, even in arson cases. They're smart, driven, and powerfully loyal to their handlers. In many cases K-9's are given official police officer status. This means attacking or injuring a K-9 carries a much heavier penalty than a typical animal cruelty charge. Additionally, if killed in the line of duty, these dogs are given a full police funeral. However, most of them enjoy a full working career of 6 to 9 years and then a relaxed retirement with their handlers.

Dogs are handy helpers no matter what profession they are employed in. But it’s really nice to know that man’s best friend has been gainfully employed protecting citizens the world over for nigh on a millennium, and they’re only getting better at their jobs. So support your local police, and help them buy bacon for the local K-9 unit near you!

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