The German shepherd dog is known for its many fine attributes, including intelligence, loyalty, good temperament, trainability, and endurance. These characteristics are what make German shepherds the perfect choice for their work as police dogs.
A police dog is trained specifically to work with the police and other law enforcement agencies. In the United States, they are often known as the K9 unit. They are a highly regarded and respected unit wherever they go and work in many different locations. They have been known for their work with the police and military for so many years that many people automatically refer to the German shepherd dog as a police dog, whether they are work dogs or merely family pets.
German shepherds are used effectively for many purposes. One of the purposes is their role as a public order enforcement dog. Their duty here revolves around chasing criminals or suspects and holding them until law enforcement officials command them to stop. Due to their intelligence and excellent response to training, they will only detain the suspect by "threatening" them until their master comes. They are trained not to bite the suspect, but just to make sure they don't escape.
Missing persons or objects are often searched for by the German shepherd dog. Their great sense of smell as well as unending endurance makes them excellent tracking dogs. Their sense of smell also makes them excellent as substance dogs used to detect illegal substances like drugs or explosives. They can determine if these substances are on a person or their belongings. They are often brought into schools to sniff the halls for any illegal drugs in student lockers. The German shepherd dog is also used to help in more grisly tasks, including being trained to detect the odor of decomposing bodies. This is also very helpful in finding missing persons.
Training the German shepherd to become a skilled police work requires skill, dedication, and a lot of hard work - preferably from the time the dog is young. This often isn't the case as sometimes the dog is donated to or purchased by the police department as a full-grown dog. The training consists of teaching the dog what most officers refer to as either "bark and hold" or "bite and hold" depending on what the department's policies are. There have been many differing opinions as to which method works better.
In the "bark and hold" situation, the dog will pursue a suspect until he catches up to them. When the dog catches up with the person, he is trained to circle around the suspect barking repeatedly until the officer gets there to take over and detain the person. The dog will only bite the suspect if they try to escape. In the "bite and hold", the dog will pursue the suspect and grab him and hold him until the officer arrives. Many police departments didn't like this method because many dogs were lost this way. While the dog was holding onto one arm or leg of the suspect, the suspect was able to stab the dog with the other arm. Ultimately, the method which is used is dependent on the circumstances and department needs and policies at the time.
Most German shepherd dogs which are trained as police dogs are trained in languages other than English. One reason is so suspects aren't aware of what the dog is being told and the other reason is so the dog is not hearing something in the background that he believes is a command.