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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 they have been estimated to 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 of the dogs and is responsible for their healthcare.

The yard of the Centre, nicknamed “Dog Hill”, includes various training areas, buildings and structures. In addition, the area includes classrooms, accommodation and office premises as well as a dog shelter. 

Many dog breeds

Some 240 police dogs and 220 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 breeds, familiar for most, many other breeds are also used, such as Labrador Retriever, Border Collie and Golden Retriever. Finland’s smallest police dog, narcotics and money tracking dog Patrik, is a Parson Russell Terrier. 

To find out more about police dogs, you can browse the Police University College’s police dog gallery.

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 on various police tasks. The skills taught to patrol dogs in basic training include 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 a special task, such as searching for narcotics, explosives, flammable liquids or dead bodies and semen. All patrol dogs are trained for rescue search.

In addition to manageability, specialist dogs are trained for a certain special task, such as Patrik for tracking money. Other special tasks include finding explosives, narcotics or dead bodies or assisting in investigation into the cause of a fire. As the name indicates, specialist dogs operate in special tasks they were trained for, not with regular emergency 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. Each specialist dog is trained for their specific special task. In special training, both patrol and specialist dogs learn to not touch their finds and indicate 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.

Police dogs are their handlers’ colleagues and family members

Dog handlers’ special duties require commitment, as these police officers collaborate with their animal companion. A dog handler’s work can be described as a way of life, combining work with hobby. 

Police dogs live with their handlers as family members, and the handler operates in the task usually until the dog retires. Most police dogs retire around the age of 10 and spend the rest of their lives with their handler’s family. Even though some working hours are assigned for training, 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 the dog, the dog handler and another police officer. Dog patrols operate in regular emergency assignments of the police alongside other patrols. In many cases, a dog patrol is called to assist if the tasks involve use of force or searching for narcotics and missing persons. 

Dog handler training

Dog handlers have the same basic police education as all police officers. Dog handlers are required to have some degree of work experience, so that it is recommended that they work in various police tasks for a few years before applying for dog handler training. 

In most cases, the motivation to apply for dog handler training is based on the person’s enthusiasm and interest in canine police work. Police departments choose from among candidates the applicants accepted for training. The Police Dog Training Centre assesses applicants’ suitability for working as a dog handler. A good dog handler is calm and responsible. A playful attitude is a must.

Dog handler training takes two and a half years. The studies include both contact studies at the Police Dog Training Centre in Hämeenlinna, and training at police departments. During the courses, the dog handler completes with the dog the behavior 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 organizes obedience inspections also 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 two parts:

  • accessibility
  • manageability 

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

Registering for the obedience test

The schedules and details for registering for the obedience tests are given on the Police University College website.

Provisions on the obedience test are laid down in the following laws and regulations:

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Browse the police dog gallery

In the police dog gallery, you can browse the dogs based on their task, placement, breed and sex. For example, you can choose to view only the dogs of a certain police department. You can also use a search term to search for dogs.

Police dogs on the Police University College website

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

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A police dog lying on the ground looking alert.