Police dogs: “The worst for a dog handler: changing partners”

Just like with humans, there are many called dogs and few chosen ones in the canine group. The selection criteria are sharp and the result can be seen in the field.

The dogs of the police canine group are magnificent, lively and intelligent specimens, as we have seen. Above all, they are the result of a severe and sometimes harsh selection process for the police officers and the dogs they are required to train. The dogs are at least one year old when they contribute to the brigade.

“Our first instinct is to contact animal shelters when we need a new dog. They know what types of dogs we are looking for. The dog must be very active, like to play and have a protective instinct and a little bit of aggression”, explains the chief commissioner, Christian van Wissen, deputy leader of the group. “We also contact specialist sellers. But the tendency is more and more to recover dogs of families which do not manage. These dogs need constant stimulation.

A solid medical examination

Some dog handlers adopt puppies and train them. “It’s a risk,” he continues. “Because the selection criteria are enormous and if he is not in perfect health, we have worked for nothing. »

Indeed, the dogs are subjected to a solid medical examination which determines if they are suitable for the service. Sometimes all it takes is a misaligned vertebra. “More and more dogs are failing the medical examination. There is no question of an animal being retired for medical reasons after three years. It’s too expensive and too bad,” says Ivo, dog handler and trainer. Expectations are very high and lately a lot of dogs have not been agreed.

Most police dogs are Malinois or Belgian Shepherds. They are chosen for their exceptional abilities.

A partner more than a tool

Dog handlers train their new dog while their dog lives out its last missions. It also happens that police officers ask for new assignments after the retirement of their dog, not considering working with another dog than with their original partner. Being a member of the canine group means loving dogs, your dog in particular, and creating an unbreakable bond. This is why changing it is so difficult for the police, whether it is because the dog is retiring or because it is not suitable.

Jean-Marie tested eleven dogs before finding the right one, his dog Cash, and seven for the dog he is currently training. “We usually know before a month if a dog is made for this job or not. We have to change it. It’s very hard for the master who has already created a relationship with the animal,” says Ivo. “It’s one of the negative points of our profession”, confirms Chris then Jean-Marie. “It’s the worst in the dog handler’s career. You have the dog at home, you create a bond and then you have to part with it because it does not fit.

Once the right dog has been found, the handler continues to invest time in his training to make him operational and as efficient as possible. While keeping in mind that if the dog is a great work tool, it is a living being, a partner, who deserves respect and protection, even if it is rare for a dog to be injured in service.

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