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How Police Dogs Know Who To Chase, Attack, Bite (Bad Guy)

How Do Police Dogs Know Who To Attack

Ever wondered how police dogs know who they must go after, attack, and bite?

Great news! 

This article will reveal how police dogs are trained.

You’ll discover:

  • How police dogs are able to smell who the bad guy is.
  • What former police officers have to say from experience of working with K9s.
  • What the dangers of using a police dog to go after suspects are (check out fact #3).
  • The base command which every police dog should know so they can do an effective job.
  • And much much more…

How do police dogs know who to chase, attack, and bite?

Police dogs know who to chase, attack, and bite based on commands from their handler. And by picking up body language cues from the people around them. Some K9s are trained to attack the first person they encounter. In which case they enter a room, find the person and bite.

People also ask:

How police dogs know who to chase, attack, bite – 9 factors

#1: Dogs go after the strongest smell

Police dogs are trained to go after the strongest smell. If the scent is not interrupted by someone who crossed the scent trail, the dog will continue following until it tracks down the source. 

The dogs work on the method of elimination. They’ll follow the first smell they were given.

Training happens weekly. The dog is taught to disregard the people around and focus on the scent that moves away. 

#2: The dogs follow the scent of stress, adrenaline 

It’s different from the scent of the victims and police officers. Experienced tracking dogs learn this and start eliminating certain smells.

#3: Police dogs are trained to look for a specific smell

In short, one police dog cannot be used to detect both bombs and drugs. 

Police dogs are trained to follow a certain smell. And as soon as they find it, they’d get rewarded. 

Here’s how the training happens:

The dogs are usually given boxes to sniff. In one of these is the object they’re meant to find. When they sniff it, they get rewarded. 

That way they get the message that good things happen when they find this one smell. And as a result, the dog starts reacting to it. 

#4: The dog is given to sniff a belonging of the person

To let the dog know which scent they should track, policemen have several options. 

One is to give a worn item of the person who needs to be tracked. This could be a worn cloth or shoes.

#5: Tracking

German Shepherd Police Dog Tracking

Another is to bring the dog to a scene where the person had last been. Provided the scent wasn’t mashed up with many others soon after.

Whenever a suspect has been at a particular place, they’ll leave behind sweat and skin cells. These will stay in the environment where the suspect is. 

What’s more, if the perpetrator sticks to one spot for a bit longer, they’ll leave a pool of scent. This scent will then remain for hours on end. 

But it’s still necessary for the tracking dogs to arrive within an hour after the suspect has gone.

The dog will be then given to smell seat cushions, car seats, and so on. Once the dog has gotten the smell they’re after, they’ll pursue their target without getting distracted by drinking, eating, or resting.

Note: The surface which turns a dog’s tracking into a hard challenge is concrete. In addition, if the suspect enters a crowded area, the dog might lose the scent. This is because the scents of the people start overlapping.

But you know what’s important for tracking to work?

The location in which the suspect had last been seen, should be crossed off. And police officers shouldn’t walk over the scene. 

If they do, the scent might be reduced or even disappear. 

When the police officer with the dog arrives, the dog is leashed. The dog is given a track command and the sniffing begins. 

Sometimes the dog is able to pick up and follow the scent. On other occasions, the suspect escapes by jumping in a car and driving away. Or some of the policemen have crossed the scene. 

Sometimes the scent of the perpetrator disappears due to changes in climate, temperature. Or simply because the event happened some time ago.

#6: Area search

Area search is similar to tracking. 

The difference lies in the fact that with area searching, the dog is after a human scent. While with tracking, the dog is searching for the scent trail of the perpetrator who has passed this place.

#7: Strong memory and reading the handler’s reactions

Police dogs are very observant and take cues from their handlers. 

Apart from that, they also sense who are the people the handler likes or dislikes. 

And let’s not forget that dogs memorize the scent of a person. That’s how they remember you even after years have passed since they last saw you. 

#8: Tracking disturbance scents

Some police dogs are used to follow odors from:

  • Broken twigs. 
  • Grass that’s been ran over.
  • Grass juice left on concrete.

#9: Police dogs are taught the “go find” command

Before a police dog goes on a quest to find a perpetrator, they must learn vital commands. One of which is the “go find” command.

Once the dog is familiar with “go find”, they can be taught to look for different things. For example objects, such as balls.

When they learn how to purposefully go search and find a particular thing, they get rewarded. 

From there on, the dogs are given to find scents based on an item of the person. Or taken to a person’s whereabouts.

Now that you know all of this, here’s a video that can further show you how police dogs are trained to chase, attack, and bite bad guys:

7 facts about police dogs chasing, attacking, and biting bad guys

#1: K9s can recognize police uniforms

This might seem weird to you but it’s essential both for a job well-done and preventing accidents. 

K9s get trained around policemen with and without uniform. That’s how the dog should learn to differentiate the good guys. 

But like with any method, this isn’t 100% bulletproof. The dogs might stil bite, if they read some body language cues as bad.

Although accidents happen, police dogs continue to be a valuable part of the police force. Mainly because they track down suspects in a manner that humans cannot. 

#2: The accident with a San Diego police dog

Speaking of accidents, there’s one from 2010 that includes a dog who bit a woman’s lip. 

The woman in question had gone out with colleagues after work. She had 5 vodka drinks and then went back to her office. 

The lady then decided to stay the night at the office. She fell asleep. But at some point, she awoke because she had to use the restroom. That’s when the lady triggered the burglar’s alarm.

She didn’t realize that and went back to sleep.

The police reacted to the alarm signal and went on the spot. Sgt. Bill Nuton was with his dog Bak. There were also two other policemen. 

Sgt. Nuton noticed the door of the office was open. It was dark so he couldn’t see what was going on inside. 

That’s when he reverted to a warning. He shouted inside to say this is the San Diego Police Department. And that if the person doesn’t come out, a police dog that may bite will be released. 

Since the lady was fast asleep and didn’t react on time. So after the policeman waited for more than a minute, he released Bak. The dog went inside, jumped on her, while she was sleeping on the couch, and bit her lip. 

After the accident, Sgt. Nulton was surprised that the dog didn’t cause more serious damage to the woman’s face.

Sgt. Nulton testified that the police dogs cannot differentiate between an innocent child and a vicious burglar. The dogs are just trained to jump on the first person they encounter in a building. 

#3: Police dogs could attack and bite police officers too

Police Dog Attacking Police Officer

The fact of the matter is, that a K9 could go after a police officer instead of after a suspect.

One police officer shared his story on the matter in a forum. He said he and his partner were called to go after a naked man. The man was high and was causing distress because he was running with no clothes.

What happened was that the handler got attacked by the naked man. After the police dog saw that, they went running at full speed to the perpetrator.

But then something happened…

The dog noticed the other police officer. And changed their direction by heading towards him. 

Luckily, the police officer managed to get in his car and close the door before the dog could take a bite out of his flesh. 

But the handler was still in trouble… And what followed is even more surprising.

Instead of jumping on the perpetrator and pushing them down to the ground, the dog started biting both him and the handler.

Soon after the back-up arrived. And when the policemen jumped out of their cars, the dog started going after each one of them. 

Even though the handler was trying to stop his dog by giving commands, it was to no avail. The only solution was to wait for the K9 supervisor to stop the dog and leash them. 

Otherwise, there was no way for the police to handcuff the naked perpetrator. 

But what made the dog react like that?

At the hospital, the handler shared with his colleague something disturbing. It turned out that some of the police officers agitated the dog. As a result, the dog had formed negative associations with them.

You might also like: 5 Reasons Why Dogs Bite Your Hands + 5 Tips To Stop It

#4: Some police dogs are exceptionally smart

A former Sergeant shared his observations on police dogs with us. He himself was bitten by one of the police dogs. The bite damaged his muscles and nerves.

Based on this, he confirmed that sometimes dogs aren’t aware of who they should chase. That’s how police officers end up chased and bitten too. 

But the Sergeant wanted to tell us about a different type of police dog. The dog’s name was Dux. The policemen considered him to be a part of the team. Not just a dog.

Dux was accompanying the policemen on SWAT calls. The dog used his body language to communicate with his human colleagues. 

He’d nudge them with his nose, look them in the eyes, and grin. This was his trademark. Dux had a special bond with the former Sergeant. 

When the policemen were at a crime scene, Dux would go first in the building. After he had made sure the coast is clear, he’d come out and let his colleagues know. 

Not only did Dux recognized his beloved human colleagues, but he also differentiated between uniforms and regular clothing. 

Dux could strip the clothes off a suspect and bite him. What’s more, the dog could hold his bite until the policemen do their job. 

Besides all of these accomplishments, Dux could also find evidence. An example is when he’d go in a field and sniff for things that were out of place. For example car keys.

After going through some of Dux’s accomplishments, the former Sergeant noted that not all police dogs are like that.

#5: Police dogs are sometimes called land sharks 

In the UK (and not only) the term “land shark” is attributed to police dogs. 

The explanation?

Sometimes, after they’re unleashed, these dogs would bite anyone and anything that moves. 

A former Special Inspector from the UK shared a brief story of how he nearly got bitten by a German Shepherd dog. 

The inspector was going after a burglar when a German Shepherd tried to attack him from the side. 

The solution? 

The police officer dropped on the ground and played dead. Yup-it worked. 

But the dog handler also gets some credit for this, as he was shouting commands at the dog. This helped direct the dog’s attention to the burglar. And then the dog bit the burglar’s head a few times.

You can imagine how close that was. 

The former police officer elaborated on the fact that both German Shepherd dogs and Belgian Shepherd Malinois are used for these purposes. 

#6: Here’s how police dogs sometimes lose the scent

Although police dogs are highly skilled at what they do, it happens that they lose the scent sometimes.

Dogs would normally follow the trail of hair, dead skin cells, and sweat a person leaves behind. 

But if the weather is too hot, the sun will hide these giveaways. The scent will dry off in 15 minutes or even less. And let’s not forget rain which will wash away the trails. 

There’s also the possibility of the perpetrator escaping by hopping in a car. Then the scent will be lost. 

Also, it’s likely that the dog will lose the scent if the perpetrator enters water.

Last but not least comes the role of the wind. In order for a dog to track, they stick their noses close to the ground. 

#7: People bitten by police dogs are often hospitalized

Research compared dog bite victims of domestic dogs and K9s. 

The results showed that the people who were bitten by K9s had multiple bites. The wounds are severe and need hospital care.

In contrast, dog owners would often get bitten once. Usually as a matter of self-defense. Or because they got petted or interrupted while eating. 

The reason for the difference in the number and intensity of bites lies in the following factors:

The size of the police dogs

The dogs used most oftten in the police force in the US are large breeds. Amongst these are Belgian Shepherd Malinois and Doberman Pinschers. 

Besides that, it’s also important that the dogs has high energy and the tendency to bite.

The type of training

Then there’s the type of training the K9s get. 

Dogs were trained to bite hard. And also use their “full-mouth bite”. Meaning, they’d put all of their teeth into action. That’s how the dogs would hold the perpetrator until being told otherwise by their handler.