MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: How do they train Police dogs?

Date: Wed Nov 1 12:48:28 2000
Posted By: Andrea Bixler, Asst. Professor, Biology
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 970843328.Zo

Training dogs for police work is performed the same way as any 
other training.  According to one expert,  "There are probably as many 
methods out there as there are trainers. The ones we hear about 
most often are, 1) positive reinforcement (praise, completion and 
resolution of the drive) 2) compulsion (negative corrections, verbal or 
through equipment) 3) inducement (balls, kongs, food etc.)" 

Dogs go through typical obedience training first, and then several 
weeks of specialized training.  Exactly what is taught in this training 
regimen depends on whether the dog is to go on to do patrols, drug 
inspections, tracking or other work. As do most trainers, Joe Clingan 
of the Fort Collins, Co. Police Department, emphasizes 
understanding the animalís natural behavior 
(  Knowing 
this can allow you to present the dog with tasks it wants to do.  For 
example, in searches, encourage the dog in its "strong prey or 
predatory drive" so that it wants to find the suspect.  The dog is 
rewarded with praise, but also with having achieved its own 
objectiveófinding the "prey" and being allowed to "kill" it by biting at 
the subjectís sleeve.  Clingan supports using the dogsí natural drives 
instead of using compulsion (forcing the dog through fear or negative 

In some ways, training a dog to search for a suspect or object is not 
that different from training it to fetch.  Likewise, some of the other 
things police dogs must do or not do are similar to tasks of ordinary 
pets.  For example, police dogs must be desensitized to gunfire so 
that they can continue to work even when shots are being fired 
nearby.  The conditioning necessary for this would be similar to that 
for dogs that bark or cower at the sound of thunder or other noises in 
their apartment.  Puppies are gradually introduced to noises (starting 
at first with soft noises or noises far away, and then gradually 
increasing the intensity of the noise over time 

For other information on the web, try the Utah Post Service Dog 
Program, which has a page on the exams that patrol dogs must pass 
to be certified, including definitions of suitable behavior in instances 
of tracking, identifying evidence or apprehending a suspect 
(  The United States 
Canine Associationís page ( 
contains general information as well as links to articles on training 

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