What is a K9 dog? K9 or K-9 dogs are police and military dogs. K9 is a homophone for the word canine – clever right?! K9 dogs were made famous by Doctor Who and Looney Tunes cartoons. German Shepherds are the most common K9 dog breed but there are other suitable breeds too. These pups play a major role in many police and military operations, which use them to search for people and things (e.g., suspects and drugs), rescue people, detect explosives, and respond to people in distress, like in a fire. It is amazing what these dogs can do! Training begins as a puppy and when these super-heroes retire, some of them are adoptable! Sound interesting? Read on!
There is so much that can be said about K9 dogs. Their skills, training and accomplishments are so impressive that you can find an endless number of real-life stories about how much they give back to their partners, their units or forces, and the community. These are the top 9 most interesting things we learned about K9 dogs.
#1 They can do and actually do more to help the community and the public than we can ever understand. No matter who is asked: What is a K9 police dog? it seems there is not one answer or one specific description that can be given to a police dog. The common thread seems to be that they do everything. They save lives. They never quit. They are able to learn and do things that are incomprehensible, and they are extremely loyal. But, most of all, they are officers, best friends, and family. This video shows actual officers attempting to describe them. Be warned, what these officers have to say is both inspiring and a bit of a tear-jerker!
#2 They have been used by the military on highly sensitive and life-saving missions and have even been parachuted into intense situations. Military dogs have been in use by US forces for over 100 years. They have been sent into battle with their human counterparts in every major war. Over 10,000 dogs were sent into battle in WWII. The most common military dogs are German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. They are loyal, obedient, loving and have very powerful bites, which makes them perfect for the job. Boxers, Rottweilers, and Dobermans have also been used, but less commonly. In the military, they have been used as patrol dogs, sentry dogs, who alert their humans of a possible enemy attack, messenger dogs and casualty dogs that find survivors. After 9/11 over 300 dogs were used to find survivors buried deep under the rubble. The human rescuers were so impressed with one dog that they saved his DNA and cloned him 5 times!
#3 A military dog helped bring down Osama Bin Laden. Cairo, the war dog, was a 70 lb working Belgian Malinois. He was deployed with an elite Navy SEAL team of 80 to take down Osama Bin Laden. To get him on the ground for the mission, he was strapped to a Navy SEAL and lowered from a hovering helicopter. Cairo was trained for tasks like that. He was even trained to parachute alone to get on the ground, just like human Navy SEALs.
The video below gives you a glimpse into Cairo’s life and training, as told by his handler, Navy SEAL Will Chesney. Will also wrote a book called “No Ordinary Dog” that describes his partnership with Cairo, who he adopted after Cairo retired from the Navy SEALS. Cairo died in 2015.
Military dogs make great detectors – of bombs and people, they also run twice as fast as humans, can be outfitted with a camera so that their human handler can see what they find before following, and have a sense of smell 40 times better than humans. Like their human counterparts, Navy SEAL dogs wear body armour and “doggles” that give them night vision and have infrared capabilities
#5 A bullet proof vest saved the life of a K9 dog that was shot 5 times at close range. That dog recovered and went right back to work with the same focus and love for his partner as before. Gabo was a K9 officer with the Jonesboro, Arkansas police department. He was a German Shepherd who was shot by a woman that officers had tried to apprehend. The woman had shot the maintenance man in an apartment complex multiple times. The police arrived at the complex hoping to prevent her from shooting anyone else. The standoff between the police and the woman lasted 5 hours. Gabo was sent into an apartment to disarm the woman. She shot him 5 times. Luckily, Gabo was wearing a bullet proof vest and managed to survive. You can hear about Gabo’s story here.
#6 There are K9 police and military associations throughout America. Some have events open to the public. You can read their stories about their training and exceptional dogs on their websites. You can donate, volunteer, and send care packages to the military dog teams. You may even be able to donate to help with both training and protective equipment for K9 officers. Some of the interesting ones we found were:
- The United States Police Canine Association
- The Police K9 Association
- Malinois K9 Association
- USK9 Unlimited
- The Military Working Dog Team Support Association
- American Tactical K9 Association
#7 Because of several deaths of exceptional K9 dogs, it is now a felony to injure or kill a police service canine. The stories of the death of K9 officers are truly heart-breaking. In many cases, they sacrificed their lives to save their human partners, in pursuit of fleeing suspects, or simply in the line of duty. The worst stories are the ones in which people harm K9 officers. In a recent case, a 16 year old was charged with the second degree felony of “interfering with a police service animal”. It is believed that he killed the K9 officer while trying to escape the police. Kozmo, the K9 officer, had been with the Mesquite Texas PD for 5 years. He was deployed to chase robbery suspects who fled on foot. All suspects were caught but Kozmo could not be located. He was later found in the woods dead.
#8 K9 dogs have an extraordinary and mind-boggling sense of smell. Like us, dogs use their nose to breathe and smell. Unlike us, dogs can separate the functions of their nostrils so that one is used to smell, while the other is used to breathe. That is why they can smell much more than we can. In 2017, K9 dogs found bodies buried 12 feet underground. Pretty good right? Well, they also found a worker who died in 1836 in Pennsylvania! Due to their acute sense of smell, a K9 dog can search an area faster than humans and with a lot more accuracy. They use their sense of smell while we use our eyes and hands. Some of the biggest drug busts in U.S. history have been possible because K9 dogs found the drugs or labs where they were made. In more recent years, K9 dogs have been trained to find electronic equipment like computers, hard drives, and thumb drives. In 2014, a K9 officer found a thumb drive with child pornography. It was hidden 4 layers deep in a tin box, hidden inside a metal cabinet.
#9 National K9 Veteran’s Day is March 13. This special day commemorates the service and sacrifice of American working and military dogs. March 13, 1942 is the day American military forces started to train dogs for their War Dog Program. The original war dog was a rescue dog adopted by an American soldier. He was the most decorated dog in American history and the first dog to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant. His name was Sergeant Stubby. These are some of the most interesting facts about him:
- He was a stray that followed an American soldier to his barracks.
- He stowed away and followed the soldiers to France.
- He was allowed to stay with the soldiers because of the positive impact he had on morale.
- Stubby endured critical wounds after a chemical attack.
- After recovering, he had an increased sensitivity to incoming attacks and was able to alert the soldiers.
- He could hear the difference between English and German speech.
- He led medics to wounded Americans on the battlefield.
- He learned bugle calls, drills, and a modified dog salute by placing his right paw on his eyebrow.
- Through 17 battles over 18 months, Stubby became a war hero.
- He received numerous awards and met three U.S. presidents.
- Post war, he became a mascot for the Georgetown Hoyas’.
- When he died in 1926, a three-column obituary was written about him.
- A statute of Stubby is in the Smithsonian Institution, with all of his medals, and a picture of him is in the West Haven Military Museum.
- In 2018, an animated movie was made about him – Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.
After researching this post, we now understand when people say that “A Dog is the only creature who loves you more than they love themselves.” It has never been clearer to us that our canine companions are capable and loyal far beyond anything we can comprehend.