why are german shepherds used as police dogs

Why Are German Shepherds Used As Police Dogs?

Why are German Shepherds used as police dogs?

They’re used as police dogs because they possess the necessary intelligence, temperament, and qualities required to be excellent at the job. They’re smart, highly trainable, loyal, courageous, alert yet calm, and willing to serve and please.

Let’s look into these key qualities further.

Qualities That Make German Shepherds Excellent Police Dogs

Physical Traits. German Shepherds are large, strong, athletic, and highly energetic dogs. As such, they’re able to keep with the physical demands of police work, such as when they need to chase and take down criminals.

Intelligence. German Shepherds are one of the most intelligent and highly trainable dog breeds. As such, they’re highly capable of performing complex tasks such as detection (sniffing out for drugs and explosives), as well as tracking.

Calmness. German Shepherds can also stay calm in stressful or chaotic situations. Even in such high-pressure moments, they will effectively follow their handler’s commands.

Willingness to Work. They also love to work and have the energy to do so. As a working breed, German Shepherds have a strong work ethic and are very much willing to work. And with their abundance of energy, rest assured, they won’t stop until the job’s finished.

Loyalty. Finally, German Shepherds are both loyal and protective. They will trust their handler’s commands and will always protect them from any form of aggression.

With these qualities, it’s not surprising how German Shepherds have been working alongside the police for more than a century.

German Shepherds And Their History As Police Dogs

Yes, you read that right. At this point, German Shepherds have been working as police dogs for more than a hundred years.

Their history with police work began in 1896 after the success of using police dogs in France the year before. Germany then decided to follow suit and adopted the idea of police dogs. 

And so, they experimented with different breeds to determine which one possessed the necessary intelligence and adaptiveness for police work. In the end, they found the German Shepherd to fit the bill.

By 1920, they established the first police dog training school, which primarily featured the use of German Shepherds. This eventually paved the way for the breed’s prominence in the police force today.

German Shepherds And Police Work

As police dogs, German Shepherds can be trained to do tasks under three categories, attack, search and rescue, and detection.

Attack Dogs

Police attack dogs are trained to attack on command or on provocation to apprehend and subdue suspects. These dogs have the intelligence and the ability to assess and determine threats even beyond their handler’s commands. As such, not only do they aid in apprehending suspects, they also work to protect their handlers from any form of aggression.

Search and Rescue

As the name implies, search and rescue police dogs specialize in locating suspects, missing people or objects. This task makes good use of a dog’s sense of smell to cover ground quickly in search and rescue operations.


This task yet again makes full use of a dog’s sense of smell. This time, however, instead of missing people or objects, detection dogs are specifically trained to detect drugs and explosives.

As one of the most intelligent and versatile dog breeds, German Shepherds have the ability to perform every one of those tasks. They are however, typically trained to specialize as protection or attack dogs, and as search and rescue dogs.

How Are German Shepherds Trained As Police Dogs

Obedience Training

Before even having the chance to work as a police dog, a German Shepherd must be obedience trained. It is imperative that a police dog must be able to stay in control and follow their handler’s commands at all times and without hesitation. And so, while it may be rather simple, a German Shepherd must be able to follow the basic commands such as sit and stay.

Physical Training

Next up is physical training. Police dogs may have to be able to climb stairs and jump over cars or walls, depending on what a situation calls for. Thus, police dogs are agility trained and are trained to endure a tremendous amount of physical activity.


After showing the ability to follow commands and move as intended, police dogs are then trained based on their specialization. Some dogs will be either trained for sniffing out drugs or explosives, while some will specialize in search and rescue or attack.

The following video provides a peek at how the Toronto Police Services Canine Unit trains their German Shepherds for sniffing out drugs, and search and rescue.

Notable German Shepherd Police Dogs


Ape was an FBI dog who got shot in the raid of a gunman suspected of already killing four people.

The FBI was in pursuit of a gunman named Kurt Myers, who eventually holed up in an abandoned bar and had a standoff with the FBI and the police. Kurt Myers was considered armed and dangerous, and thus it was difficult to raid the area. Furthermore, the police didn’t have a clear idea and visibility of the area, amplifying the difficulty of an already difficult situation.

That’s when Ape came in. Outfitted with a camera, Ape was able to provide the police with a clear view of what was happening in the hideout. The footage he provided allowed the police to eventually kill the gunman. Unfortunately, while investigating, Ape was shot in the chest, which led to his death.

For his bravery, he was honored and eventually buried in the FBI’s headquarters.


The German Shepherd police dog named Finn was named Hero Animal Of The Year at The Mirror’s Animal Hero Awards in 2017.

One night, Finn and his handler, Dave Wardell, were in pursuit of an armed robbery suspect. They eventually caught up with the suspect when Finn was able to clamp his jaw around the suspect’s leg and pull him back down from going over a fence.

Everything was going as intended up until the suspect fought back and stabbed Finn’s chest with a knife. Despite the pain, Finn didn’t let go of the suspect’s leg. He then later jumped to shield Dave from an attack, causing the knife to hit his head and Dave’s hand instead of a potentially more fatal blow. Through Finn’s efforts, Dave was eventually able to contain the suspect as back-up finally arrived.

But by then, the damage was done. Finn was severely hurt. Fortunately, after hours of surgery, Finn was able to pull through and recover.

Why Are German Shepherds Used As Police Dogs?

German Shepherds have an extensive history and proven resume in doing police work. Furthermore, they possess the physical, intellectual, and temperamental qualities that make for excellent police dogs.

Simply put, they fit the bill, and do they fit it well. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *