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Police dogs

Police dogs serve in all police units, around the clock on every day of the year, ready to support the police during tasks.

Police dogs perform approximately 11,000 different tasks per year in various situations, and it has been estimated that they save around ten human lives each year. 

Police Dog Training Centre

The Police Dog Training Centre, located in Hämeenlinna, purchases the dogs for police use and trains all dog handlers. The Police Dog Training Centre owns all the dogs and is responsible for their healthcare.

In the Centre’s yard, there are various training areas, buildings and structures. In addition, the area includes class, accommodation and office space as well as a dog shelter, of course. 

Many dog breeds

Some 260 police dogs and 240 dog handlers work for the Finnish police force. Depending on the dogs’ training, they operate either as patrol dogs or specialist dogs. 

The most common police dog breeds are Belgian Shepherd Malinois and German Shepherd. In addition to these familiar breeds, many other breeds are also used, such as Labrador retriever, Bordercollie and Golden Retriever. The smallest police dog in Finland, money tracking dog Jekku, is a Parson Russell Terrier. 

What are patrol dogs and specialist dogs?

A patrol dog is a member of a dog patrol. Patrol dogs are multi-task dogs and ride with emergency patrols for various police tasks. Skills taught to patrol dogs in basic training are manageability, use of force, tracking, person search as well as object and crime scene search. 

In addition to basic training, patrol dogs are trained in some special task, such as looking for narcotics, explosives, flammable liquids or dead bodies. All patrol dogs are trained for rescue search.

Specialist dogs are trained, in addition to manageability, for some special task, such as Jekku for tracking money. Other special tasks include finding explosives, narcotics or dead bodies or assisting in investigation into the cause of a fire. According to their name, specialist dogs operate in special tasks they were trained for, not with the regular patrols.

Basic training

The basic training of patrol dogs includes five different sub-areas:

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Special training 

After basic training, patrol dogs are trained for one specialist field. Specialist dogs are each trained for their own special task. In special training, both patrol and specialist dogs learn to not touch their finds and signify them by sitting down, lying down, barking or standing still. The signal can also be something else that the handler understands. 

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A police dog with its uniformed handler sniffing at an extractor fan.

A police dog is its handler’s colleague and family member

Dog handlers operate in special duties that require commitment, because the police officer acts together with the animal. A dog handler’s job could be described as a way of life that combines one’s work and hobby. 

Police dogs live with their handlers as family members, and the handler usually takes care of his/her job until the dog retires. In general, police dogs retire around the age of 10 and spend their retirement as members of the dog handler's family. Working hours are assigned for training, but dog handlers mostly train their dogs in their free time. Dog handlers are responsible for their dogs’ training and competence level. 

A dog patrol consists of a dog handler, a dog and another police officer. Dog patrols operate in the police’s normal emergency assignments alongside other patrols. A dog patrol is often called when the tasks involve the use of force or searching for narcotics and missing persons. 

Dog handler training

Dog handlers go through the same basic police training as all police officers. A dog handler is required to have some work experience, and it is recommended to work in different police tasks for a few years before applying for dog handler training. 

Most often the motivation to apply for dog handler training comes from the person’s own interest in canine police work. Police departments select the applicants who are sent to training. The Police Dog Training Centre assesses the suitability of applicants for working as dog handlers. A good dog handler is responsible and calm. A playful attitude is also good to have.

Dog handler training takes two and a half years. Part of the studies are done as contact studies at the Police Dog Training Centre in Hämeenlinna and part at police departments. During the courses, the dog handler completes with the dog the behaviour test for police dogs, the stamina test and training inspections in various sectors. 

Approximately 15 new police dog handlers graduate each year. 

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Dog obedience tests related to guarding and security steward assignments

The Police Dog Training Centre also organises obedience inspections for dogs operating in the private security sector. According to the law, dogs used in guarding and security steward assignments are required to be tested for obedience. 

The obedience test for dogs trained for guarding and security steward assignments consists of three parts:

  • accessibility
  • manageability 
  • defending the handler. 

When you participate in the test as the dog’s handler, you must have a valid guard or security steward licence. 

Registering for the obedience test

Obedience tests for guard and security dogs (in Finnish)

The obedience test is laid down in the following laws and regulations:

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A police dog lying on the ground looking alert.

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Police dogs on the Polamk website

Find out more about police dog training on the website of the Police University College.

Dogs for sale

The Police Dog Training Centre sometimes sells dogs (in Finnish only) that were not suitable to become police dogs. These dogs are usually suited for hobbies or exercising or good best friends.