Best Police Dog Breeds (With Photos)

Best Police Dog Breeds (With Photos)

Author WDF Staff


It is widely known that dogs and humans worked side by side for thousands of years. Humans used dogs for hunting, protecting, and other tasks that would be fit for our four-legged companions, and for the past 200 years we have trusted dogs to do police work as well.

When talking about police dog breeds, most of us envision a German Shepherd that is ready to attack and take down bad guys. The truth is that there is a wide range of dog breeds that are employed for different police work. Some dogs are faster and stronger while others are obedient and have a better sense of smell. Police dog work can be divided into these three basic jobs:

1. Search and Rescue

Search and rescue dogs are the ones that the police uses for tracking missing persons as well as for rescuing people from catastrophic events. Breeds that are usually chosen for this task should have a profound sense of smell and should track well.

2. Apprehension

This might be the most popular K-9 work dogs do and certainly the flashiest one. These dogs are trained to attack armed perpetrators and risk their lives to protect their human partners. Dogs that are picked for this are usually from the herding breed family.

3. Detection

Detection dogs are used for a very important job and that is narcotics, contraband, and explosives detection. Dogs that are picked for this type of work should also have a keen sense of smell and should be able to follow commands well. They typically come from the hunting dog breeds.

We bring you the list of the top 3 most popular breeds used for these 3 types of police work.

Search and Rescue police dog breeds

1. Bloodhound

The Bloodhound certainly is the ultimate hunting breed but it is also one of the best search and rescue dogs out there. These dogs have the most sensitive sense of smell out of all dog breeds and because of that, they are usually used for tracking. Tracking can include missing people, escaped convicts, missing animals, as well as detecting survivors in the aftermaths of tsunamis, earthquakes, or explosions.


2. German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer is another hunting breed that is often used by law enforcement around the world. These dogs have an excellent sense of smell and they are very athletic. Their athleticism means they can follow a scent for hours upon hours and not get tired. They are also highly trainable and have a strong will to please their handler.

german shorthaired pointer

3. Retriever breeds

The Retriever breeds are common for the Search and Rescue (SAR) work because they are rather easy to train and they have a good sense of smell. Breeds like the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, or the Chesapeake Bay Retriever are the ones that are used most often. They are energetic and willing to learn new things and please their owner. They are used for various SAR jobs including tracking or detecting survivors.

labrador service dog

Apprehension police dog breeds

1. German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is the first dog most of us think when we think about police dog breeds. This breed has the power and intelligence to follow complex commands and they have a bite that enables them to immobilize a perpetrator. German Shepherds are the most popular police dogs around the world and they are not only used for apprehension but search and rescue, and detection as well.


2. Belgian Shepherd

The Belgian Shepherd is also an extremely popular police dog breed. They are smaller and more agile than their German cousin so they can react quicker and run faster. These dogs are intelligent and athletic, capable of learning a huge number of commands. They are also used as military dogs and are some of the best competitors in agility and herding trials. Out of the four varieties of the Belgian Shepherd, Malinois is usually chosen for the K-9 unit.

belgian malinois

3. Dutch Shepherd

The Dutch Shepherd is related to both the German and the Belgian Shepherds and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that they are also one of the best police dog breed out there. These dogs are smart, loyal, and brave. Just the characteristics the law enforcement is looking out of their apprehension dogs. The Dutch Shepherd has a scary look that will strike fear into any suspect that encounters such a powerful and impressive dog.

dutch shepherd

Detection police dog breeds

1. Beagle

The Beagle is a breed with a hunting pedigree that is often used as a police detection dog. These small dogs have an incredible sense of smell that was carefully bred through centuries of their hunting work. They are great trackers and even better at detecting illegal substances. They excel at narcotics and explosion detection. They are also quite small so they are easy to navigate in small areas and between, for example, airport luggage. That is why these dogs are usually employed by the customs division of law enforcement.


2. Coonhounds

This is yet another one of the hunting breeds with a keen sense of smell. Being a detection dog it is not a huge surprise that they have a great nose and the Coonhound is quickly rising through the ranks. These dogs are getting used more and more by law enforcement around the world because they are easy to train. They are great detection dogs as well as hunters.

bluetick coonhound

3. Labrador Retriever

One of the most, if not THE most popular police detection dog breed is the Labrador Retriever. These dogs are calm, collected, and extremely intelligent. They can differentiate hundreds of different scents and can easily detect illegal substances, food, drugs, and explosives. These dogs are extremely useful around children because of their friendly, happy nature. Labradors have many uses in different areas and it is no wonder they are the most popular family pet and service dog in the world.

detection labrador retriever

World Dog Finder team