About the Unit

The K-9 units works to assist the patrol division, Emergency Response Unit (also known as SWAT), Street Crimes Unit, Narcotics Unit, and School Liason Unit in the locating of evidence, suspects, and heighten handler and officer safety on high risk calls for service and critical events.

A K-9 unit is invaluable because the K-9’s Improve officer safety. They are able to locate and find hidden dangerous suspects in situations and in areas where officers entering would have to place their lives and safety at risk.  Every year they remove hundreds of thousands of dollars of controlled substances from the street. They locate suspects and evidence from the streets that would not have been located at the time of the event assisting in effective prosecution.

Between the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office and the Rochester Police Department, there are 11 canine teams. The dogs used by the unit are primarily German Shepherds with Belgian Malinois and British Labrador Retrievers. The dogs and their handlers go through a vigorous training program that prepares them for police work. Initially, the dogs receive training in obedience, article searches, tracking, agility and criminal apprehension. Later on, the dogs will receive training in narcotics or explosives detection, depending on the unit’s needs.

K-9 Selection Process

The selection process for our dogs is rigorous. All the dogs are hand selected by the unit’s head trainer to ensure the dog has what it takes to be a police dog. The dogs used by the K-9 units are purchased through vendors that work with breeders in Europe and cost around $8,500 for an untrained dog. These dogs are bred and raised specifically for the purpose of being police dogs. The dogs are required to be first and foremost social friendly animals. In addition they need to have a high drive to work regardless of conditions and surrounding. They must be able to overcome a wide variety of challenges in order to achieve desired goals.

K-9 Training

Once purchased the dogs will undergo intense training and testing for 12 to 14 weeks with their handler before being certified to work on the street. After the dogs have gained some street experience, they are evaluated to see if they are ready or the next step in their training, which is either narcotics detection or explosive detection, depending on the needs of the department. The detection phase of training is an additional 6 weeks. Once fully trained the dogs are required to maintain a minimum of 16 hours per month maintenance training and certify yearly through the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) in patrol work and detector work.

Handler’s Work

Whether on or off duty, a K-9 handlers day revolves around the care and maintenance of their K-9 partner. High drive police K-9s cannot be kenneled in confined spaces for long periods of time. They need to expel energy and anxiety that builds when not able to work or exercise. Not just anyone can care for a police dog, which makes it difficult to have personal or family time away. Police K-9s are never left unattended or to be cared for by family or others when the handler can’t be around. Being a K-9 handler requires a great amount of dedication and self motivation to be successful.