Why Are German Shepherds Used As Police Dogs?


As a dog breed, German Shepherds are well known for their versatility in adapting to many different types of situations.

One of the working fields that German Shepherds excel at is police dog work.

But, why are German Shepherds used as police dogs, and what makes them good at this type of work?

Although we’ve already done a general guide on German Shepherds as police dogs, we’ve put together this guide to answer this ‘why’ question specifically.

Let’s look at it a bit deeper …


(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)


Why Are German Shepherds Used As Police Dogs?


German Shepherds might make good police dogs for the following reasons …

They bond well with their owner/handler

They are obedient

The working lines are bred to have strong nerves, and a stable temperament – making them good for high risk and high tension activities

They are one of the most intelligent dog breeds and can perform difficult tasks – detection and tracking in particular

They are loyal

They are protective

They have a high working ability

They are physically capable – athletic and strong, along with good stamina – able to attack, apprehend, protect and focus or patrol for long period


Why do German Shepherds possess these traits and such a temperament? – GSD breed history

German Shepherds as a dog breed were originally bred to be the ultimate working dog.

This meant they were bred to have the physical and mental traits to perform a range of working tasks, but also be intensely loyal and obedient to their master.

Although German Shepherds are attractive as a breed, their appearance was not a primary priority for early breeding apart from having the physical traits to work (strong and stable bodies).

Further to this, as the German Shepherd breed evolved into the 1900’s, there became both working lines and show lines.

Show lines may still have had working ability, but they were primarily bred for a specific appearance and to have the movements for show conformance.

The working lines on the other hand were bred to have superior health (healthy hips and elbows), great temperaments and of course a strong working ability.

If we use the East German/DDR GSD as an example, they were bred specifically to help the East German military.

You can read more about the different lines in this guide about the origins, history and evolution of the German Shepherd breed.

In modern times, there are breeders who breed German Shepherds specifically for police work – making strong nerves, supreme health, an even temperament, advanced training, and of course a big appetite to work a strong priority.

If you want to read more about the German Shepherd breed in general – we’ve put together this guide with over 100 interesting pieces of information and facts about the German Shepherd Dog Breed.


How Are Police Dogs Used In Real Life?

In modern times, most police dogs come from the working lines (you can tell the working lines straight away from their dark sable colorings, compared to the show lines’ black and tan colorings), but show lines can excel in police work too.

They are used in a range of activities including but not limited to tracking, detection, protection, patrol, apprehension and search and rescue.

Having parents and a bloodline that display a strong working ability + the physical and mental traits for police work are desirable in the parents of the puppy when being selected for police dog training.

Training might take place with a third party breeder or training organisation, or the police force might have their own internal kennels and training facilities.

Police dog in action

Police puppy in training


Not Every German Shepherd Makes A Great Police Dog Though …

Even German Shepherds from the strongest working lines might not be suitable for police work 


More Information About German Shepherd Police Dogs

Dogs have been used dating back to Roman times for security and hunting, and since domestication, dogs have been used for a whole array roles in the working, hunting and pet animal areas.

One of these areas of work and dog breed used in that area is the German Shepherd Police dog.

Below we discuss what a police dog is, police work, police dog breeds, police training and commands, police dogs and puppies for sale and adoption for retired/ex/former police dogs – amongst much more!


1) What Are German Shepherd Police Dogs?

Also known as a German Shepherd K9 or K-9, police use different dog breeds for different areas of their work.

These areas of work include but are not limited to:

Neutralizing suspects in order to apprehend or detain

Protecting their police handlers

Guarding controlled and protected areas

Locating illegal drugs, explosives and accelerants

Locating items and scents of interest at crime scenes

Tracking people of interest, fugitives and missing people


Alsatian police dogs are most often used in detection, tracking, protection and apprehension work.

They were also famously used by New York Department for search and rescue in the aftermath of the World Trade Attacks on 9/11, with Appollo being a well known GSD used in the search.

GSDs are often thought of as the most valuable and flexible police dog breed because of their strength, agility, intelligence, focus, discipline and high level of obedience and coach ability.

It is an offence in many jurisdictions around the world to assault or kill a police dog.

Both males and female German Shepherds make good police dogs.


2) Police/Cop Dog, Service Dog and K9 Breeds

The following are dog breeds that have most commonly been used in police, service and k9 work:

German Shepherd Police Dog

Labrador Retriever Police Dog

Belgian Malinois Police Dog

Dutch Shepherd Police Dog

Giant Schnauzer Police Dog

Bloodhound Police Dog

Beagle Police Dog

Basset Hound Police Dog

Doberman Pinscher Police Dog

German Shorthaired Pointer Police Dog

Springer Spaniel Police Dog


3) German Shepherd Police Dog/K9 Unit Training and Commands

German Shepherds are put through intense training regimes from their first year that may include classes in scent tracking, agility, obedience, protection/attack, item and evidence detection and sometimes cadaver sniffing (locating dead bodies by smell).

German Shepherd police dogs are also trained to remember a range of both hand and voice commands in their line of duty.

Depending on the country the police dog is from, Alsatians are given their voice commands in the native language.

You can read more about English, German, French, Czech and Dutch Police dog and protection voice commands at Mrazovack9.com


4) German Shepherd Police Dog Temperament

Not all German Shepherds make great police dogs. The best German Shepherd police dog usually has control over their temperament (controlled aggression), high intelligence/obedience, and of course a high drive to learn and accomplish tasks to a high standard.

East and West German working line GSDs (German Shepherd Dogs) usually make the most flexible GSD police dogs for their high work drive and working line pedigree.

Read more about East German/DDR Line German Shepherds.

Show Line German Shepherds can perform well in tracking and detection, but may not have the drive or temperament for protection type police work. Read more about Show Line German Shepherds.


5) How Do The Police Buy or Obtain German Shepherd Police Dogs?

It depends on the country and the police department’s policies as to how they obtain their German Shepherd police puppies and dogs.

Victoria Police in Australia for example have their own police dog breeding program at the Police Dog Squad Training Centre.

This enables the Victoria police to monitor the birth of the puppies, ensure their health through the first 8-12 weeks, enables the dogs to get familiar with the sights and sounds of the police department, and of course be put through police training and assigned to a handler or owner if successful.

If the dogs are deemed not suitable for training or fail training, they are re-homed with the right dog owners as determined by the department.

Other police departments in America for example sometimes do not have budgets assigned for police dogs and have to rely on public and corporate donations to buy from respected working line breeders.


6) Police Trained German Shepherds For Sale, Adoption and Rehoming – Puppies, Former/Retired and Ex Police Dogs

The following police trained dogs may be available for adoption and rehoming:

Puppies that are judged physically or mentally incapable of being a police dog

Dogs that fail police training

Dogs that are injured in the course of police work

Retired and pregnant dogs. Dogs usually retire at 9-12 years of age.


Sometimes a police dog will be retired with its handler or owner as opposed to being adopted or rehomed.

If you would like to to adopt a police trained service German Shepherd, contact your country’s parent German Shepherd club and ask for more information on rescue centres and police dog rehoming programs. 


7) German Shepherd Police Puppies and Dogs Pictures and Images

German Shepherd Police Puppy

German Shepherd Police Dogs

Although it is extremely rare, there have been White German Shepherd Police dogs before –

White German Shepherd Police Dog


8) More Questions and Answers About German Shepherd Police Dogs and Puppies

Nationalpolicedog.org has some more frequently asked questions along with answers about American police dogs.



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