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Police Dog Breeds: 25 Dogs Popular With Military and Law Enforcement

Police and Military personnel use a variety of different dog breeds for search and rescue work, as well as K9 work, and drug-sniffing. The following 25 dogs are the most common breeds you'll see working next to a person in uniform.

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: June 21, 2021 | 18 min read

Police Dog Breeds

Almost everywhere around the world, police keep people safe. Law enforcement exists for the people’s wellbeing, and the military exists to protect its citizens. Police officers and military personnel undergo extensive training to be competent at their jobs. However, they are only human and will sometimes need a little extra help. Certain highly trainable dog breeds are often well suited for these types of service tasks.

Since dogs are always trustworthy and have high potential in many areas, it’s no wonder there are certain dog breeds well-suited for law enforcement and military duties. It’s important to remember not every breed is good at police work or in military service. However, dogs have served in military or law enforcement service for over 130 years. This has given our canine companions decades o get used to their line of work.

Police dogs and military service dogs are used for a variety of jobs. Some are more hands-on, used in intimidation, chasing criminals, or downright attacking in dire situations. Others are more for investigative jobs, with roles in drug and contraband sniffing, bomb detection, and search and rescue work. Let’s take a look at the most popular breeds that are used for this purpose!

German Shepherd

Handsome Dog Laying Next to Military Person
Typically when you think of a police dog, a German Shepherd is what comes to mind.

Probably the most iconic police dog is the German Shepherd. They’re hailed as the most popular breed for police work. It’s no wonder why; their breed’s intelligence ranks at an amazing 3rd place in the world of dogs! These dogs are super smart and are easily trained to handle a myriad of duties.

They are hardworking, competent, and highly invested in the success of their missions. German Shepherds are incredibly loyal dogs who make a good match for pretty much any team. They are also extremely intelligent and pick up on new commands quickly.

Beyond all this though, German Shepherds are practically built for police work. They have large, muscular bodies that can intimidate any criminal. They’re also naturally very fast; they were originally bred to herd sheep and would need to work quickly to keep everyone together. Their combined intelligence, obedience, and athletic prowess all work together to keep them as one of the best police dog breeds.

Belgian Malinois

Handsome Dog Sitting Next to Military Person
A Belgian Malinois makes for a worthy comrade among police officers.

The Belgian Malinois may look like a German Shepherd, but they are a little smaller. Still, they have the same captivating gaze that can make any offender quake in their boots! Plus, a smaller body makes them faster runners than the GSD.

Belgian Malinois have high intelligence and obedience that make them very easy to train for most tasks. This makes them indispensable in the police workforce, with all the different jobs they can do.

These dogs are fearless in the face of danger, making them an excellent choice for more delicate missions. They’ve even found a special place in the military. Historically, they were used as messengers and medicine dogs in the World Wars. More notably, the Belgian Malinios, named Cairo, played a large role during a well-known US military mission.

Bloodhound

Dog Walking With Military Person
Bloodhounds have an incredible sense of smell, which is very useful for police work.

You may be surprised to learn the first police dogs were Bloodhounds! Hounds truly have a special olfactory talent, and the Bloodhound is probably the best among them. The British police used this dog’s incredible sense of smell to help them track down Jack the Ripper, a serial killer.

While they weren’t successful in finding the murderer, Bloodhounds are still used in the force today. Their powerful noses can pick up scents and follow them over long distances. They have been a massive help in sniffing for pretty much everything: narcotics, bombs, dead bodies, alive bodies… you name it!

While there aren’t as many Bloodhounds working with the police these days, they helped further the use of dogs in police work. Even indirectly, these furry friends have made a huge difference in keeping the world safe for everyone. For that, they’re truly among the biggest K9 heroes.

American Pitbull Terrier

Dog Pulling on Leash
Pitbulls are appreciated by police officers for their fierce look and loving warmth at the station.

The American Pitbull Terrier’s use in the military goes back to World War 2. The American Pitbull Terrier has a few different dogs that get commonly lumped in with them but they really aren’t the same dog. For this reason, Pitbulls have a bad reputation which is largely unfair. They indeed have a talent for intimidation, but there’s very little reason for them to act out when they’re properly trained. They can use their defensive abilities for good provided they are treated well.

For this reason, a lot of police forces have taken to using these dogs in their missions. Pitbulls are large, hardy animals who can run fast and have an incredible bite! There’s certainly no doubt these dogs can be scary, even though they are very commonly known as “nanny dogs” because of their love for their family.

Pitbulls are also good for non-intimidating types of police or military work. This includes basic companionship at the station. They are very affectionate dogs with deep loyalty to those who love them. This makes them have a great camaraderie with their human counterparts. These awesome and multitalented dogs also excel in search and rescue missions.

Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Doing Bite Work
Doberman Pinschers are highly trainable, and they make great guard dogs.

The Doberman Pinscher has achieved fame as a devoted and competent guard dog, so it’s only logical they would be good at police work too! They’re among the smartest dogs in the world, at around 5th place according to dog behaviorists. This loyalty and intelligence make them a dream to train.

Because of their trainability, they’ve had the opportunity to hold many different police jobs all over the world, like direct police work, security, as well as search and rescue. Their powerful frames are lean and slim, making them excellent runners who are definitely able to catch criminals who think they can escape!

It’s good to note there aren’t as many Doberman Pinschers on the force these days. This is because they are a fairly expensive breed, where there are more affordable breeds who can do the job similarly. These days, they’re most often found in homes where they are beloved by their families, with the same strong devotion they’ve always had.

Boxer

Boxer Dog Doing Police Work
There are many Boxers known for helping during the World Wars.

The Boxer is a calm and capable dog used in a wide variety of tasks across the force… and the world! They’ve had a long history as working dogs, having served in both World Wars. They deftly maneuvered through the warzone to bring supplies and messages from one place to the next.

Boxers excelled with this task because these powerful dogs are extremely agile! Being naturally athletic helped them to do their jobs well, which is why so many are celebrated as war heroes.

These dogs also have an intense look to them that intimidates criminals from all across the board. This is why they’re still used in police work today, despite other dogs becoming more popular choices. Boxers are truly intelligent dogs who are capable of adapting to any situation. Their versatility has made them valuable members of many different military and police task forces.

Rottweiler

Black and Rust Dog With Police Officer
This fierce animal is highly intelligent and is used widely in the police force.

The Rottweiler is a big and burly canine who knows when something dangerous is afoot. This makes them both an incredible family pet and a fantastic guard dog. This loyalty and instinctive intelligence make them perfect for police work, though their intimidating appearance also helps!

Like the Boxer, the Rottweiler also served in both World Wars as a messenger, being agile enough to run from one station to the next with important news.

Rotties are calm and collected when they need to be but seem to always know when to escalate a situation. They are wonderfully intelligent and take to training very easily. For this reason, they’ve held a large number of jobs over the years they’ve been in the police force. Their versatility makes them incredibly useful and a trusted friend among those who work alongside them.

Labrador Retriever

Yellow Lab Smelling Luggage
Labs are known to be excellent trackers to detect drugs and bombs.

You may be surprised to find the Labrador Retriever on this list, but they’re absolutely essential to a lot of police work. They aren’t intimidated by any means; the most popular dog in America is known to be nothing but loving, adorable, and intelligent. Their intelligence makes them so important when working in law enforcement. They are wonderfully obedient and take to training perfectly.

The main role they serve in the police is as a tracking dog. They have powerful noses and can help bring up many leads where there previously weren’t any. Labs are great at detecting bombs and illegal drugs.

Their history as a water retriever also makes them useful in cases where you’d need to rescue someone from the water. They are gentle enough to do it without hurting the victim, too. Overall, Labs are certainly very good dogs who are more than worthy of their place in many service jobs.

Briard

Shaggy Dog Running Outdoors
Briards are incredibly loyal dogs who make for great companions in the police force.

One dog you may not be familiar with is the Briard, a French breed of dog originally bred for herding and guarding. Briards are deeply loyal and make fine police dogs given their natural protective instincts.

Briards are another war veteran breed, having served by locating wounded soldiers and helping bring them to safety. This makes them a great choice for teams who need a dog in search and rescue missions.

The Briard has incredibly keen senses and will always be able to warn their team of any danger lurking in the shadows. They are fearless and willing to put themselves on the line for the sake of others. For this reason, they are prized among police who have chosen them to be companions on the job. Don’t be deceived by the Briard’s appearance; they may be cute and fluffy, but they mean business!

Springer Spaniel

Cute Security Dog With Person
The hunting instincts in Springer Spaniels make them great at detection, as well as search and rescue.

One of the smaller dogs on this list is the incredibly talented and useful Springer Spaniel. These dogs were originally bred for the hunt, making them reliable when the situation gets tense. They have natural obedience that allows them to be trained with ease. This is especially useful in their work as police dogs.

The best quality this breed has in police work is its highly developed sense of smell! Springer Spaniels are used to tracking down game but have no problem using this talent to find things helpful to police.

Truly versatile, the Springer Spaniel is good at bomb and narcotics detection, as well as search and rescue. They are instrumental in finding new evidence as well and can make it much easier to track down a criminal. These dogs may be small and pretty, but they are also highly competent at their jobs.

Cane Corso

Cane Corso Doing Bite Work
Not only are Cane Corsos highly intimidating, they are also highly intelligent.

The large, strong Cane Corso is another great choice for a police dog. They descended from Roman war dogs and are prolific at both attack and defense. They are obedient dogs eager to get down to business and do their tasks properly; this makes them efficient at many different kinds of police work.

Cane Corsos are also highly intimidating dogs. One look at one of these dogs (especially when they’re angry) can really make even the most heinous wrongdoers tremble in fear.

Cane Corsos are amazingly athletic and will often be great at chasing criminals and pinning them down until law enforcement arrives. They also have incredibly sharp senses; Cane Corsos are alert and excel at patrol work. They will also be fantastic at guarding the station or any other place or item needing protection.

Airedale Terrier

Brown and Black Dog Standing
British Constables have used Airedale Terries in the force for a long time for their fearlessness and trainability.

The Airedale Terrier is commonly used as a police dog in Great Britain. They are one of the largest Terriers, with well-developed senses great for hunting. Airedale Terriers served in World War I, where they delivered supplies and helped scouting teams.

You can imagine these dogs have been bred for excellence! They are naturally clever and obedient, so training this dog for police work comes quite easily. While they may be furry and adorable, these dogs are highly courageous and can be trained to attack perpetrators where necessary.

Beyond attack, they are very good at tracking, thanks to their sense of smell. They are great at border patrol work, too. Overall, these canine heroes are well-rounded and good at different jobs law enforcement may need. They will easily be an asset to any police force that needs them.

English Cocker Spaniel

Dog With Shiny Coat Working Security
Airport security is the most common place you’ll find working English Cocker Spaniels.

Another beautiful Spaniel breed that has given its valuable help to police officers is the English Cocker Spaniel. They are graceful dogs who are quite athletic; they can easily go from point A to point B and do it at top speeds. This comes from being bred for chasing game on hunting trips.

However, what makes them extraordinary is their top-notch sense of smell. These dogs can easily sniff out all kinds of contraband, from explosives to firearms, to illegal drugs.

Cocker Spaniels are great when employed in airport security; their unassuming stature easily catches people off guard! They are great servants of justice when trained well, which is all the time. English Cocker Spaniels are highly intelligent and respond positively to good training. They can be taught to do pretty much anything and will always be competent at their job. Don’t underestimate these dogs just because they’re pretty!

Bouvier des Flandres

Face of Black Dog
Bouvier des Flandres have a defensive instinct that does well in police work.

The Bouvier des Flandres is a Belgian breed that has served valiantly in the military. In wartime, they were messengers and delivered supplies from base to base. Their large size made them a good choice for helping pull ambulance stretchers for the injured.

This makes them a great working dog, not only for the military but also for the police. They have a fantastic sense of duty and loyalty to the members of their pack, in this case, a police force.

These dogs look like big fluffy balls of sunshine, which they often are. However, they have a strong protective instinct allowing them to guard property, locations, and people with a surprising ferocity! Try not to get on this dog’s bad side, as they have powerful jaws and a wicked bite. They’re certainly very intimidating to be around, making them indispensable dogs for the K9 unit.

Giant Schnauzer

Giant Schnauzer Doing Bite Work
Giant Schnauzers have a keen sense of smell that has been valuable to the Air Force, as well as other forces.

Schnauzers are among the brightest and most adorable dogs on the planet. The Giant Schnauzer is no exception, but their size really makes the difference in making them a great choice for police and military work. They’re not very aggressive dogs, but they’re certainly large enough to intimidate. They are one of the only dogs employed in the Air Force. They use their noses to detect strange scents warranting further investigation, as well as searching enclosed areas for suspicious objects.

These dogs have an incredible sense of smell allowing them to sniff out all sorts of contraband. They’re excellent security dogs who will be able to tell you where unauthorized weapons, illegal drugs, and explosives may be hiding. Schnauzers are also very athletic dogs and will enjoy patrol work. At the end of the day, they make for a great companion both on and off the field. Their loyalty and friendliness are unmatched!

Beagle

Dog Sniffing Yellow Luggage
Beagles have proven their worth on the police force and in security by using their insanely good noses to sniff out items.

Beagles are small dogs, but they have a huge sniffing ability that rivals even the Bloodhound! This makes them a great police dog. They’re not as obedient as other dogs on this list and can certainly fall victim to their one-track mind; this is the result of years of being bred for the hunt and chasing prey.

However, they are naturally adept at following odors. They’re good for a lot of different scenting operations. In cases where things have taken a turn for the grisly, they are good at searching for evidence and often play a big role in cadaver recovery.

Outside of this, Beagles use their superior noses to work security at airports. In the US, Beagles have sniffed out more than a hundred thousand pounds of unauthorized food products! They are fantastic at finding other kinds of contraband too. So while they may be small, friendly, and adorable dogs, don’t take their powers for granted!

German Shorthaired Pointer

Hunting Dog in a Field
Bred for hunting, German Shorthaired Pointers are naturally athletic and fast.

The German Shorthaired Pointer is another interesting dog on this list, also bred for hunting. They are highly athletic, with their lithe figures and powerful legs making them skilled at running at high speeds. They’re also excellent swimmers. They are smart, obedient, and always eager to please their trainers. This makes teaching them how to do their jobs quick and easy.

They have a deep loyalty and love for their pack, so they’re not really the best police dog for confronting criminals. However, they are excellent at tracking anything from illegal substances to important evidence at a crime scene.

This makes them good for airport security, too, though they won’t be quite as intimidating to criminals as other dog breeds. Still, they are confident and competent dogs who are good at using their noses for the good of everyone else!

Akita Inu

Akita Inu in Training
Akita Inus are alert dogs that are excellent at making you aware when things have gone awry.

The Akita Inu may look like a fluffy toasted marshmallow, but they’re really very dignified dogs who make powerful allies on the police force. They are naturally protective, making them good guard dogs for keeping people, places, and things safe.

The Akita is fearless and they are happy to jump into dangerous situations for the sake of their owners. Akitas have keen senses that alert them to anything that may be amiss; it’s easy to know when something is wrong, as they don’t usually bark unless they are suspicious of something.

These dogs are fabulously loyal and intelligent, so it’s no wonder why they’re a great choice for police or military work. They are most popular as police dogs in their native Japan, with little use of them elsewhere. However, we feel their greatness will truly shine in the coming years, and we’ll be seeing more of these talented dogs even in our own local law enforcement.

Border Collie

Herding Dog on the Beach
A Border Collie’s herding instincts allow it to be quick and protective.

With their athleticism, protective instincts, and the highest intelligence of any other breed in the world, the Border Collie is sure to make an excellent police dog. They were originally bred for herding, so expect them to be incredibly agile… their running speed is no joke!

With that said, they’re not the most popular police dog as of yet. There aren’t many active Border Collies on the police force, but the ones that are there are certainly very talented. Border Collies are good at sniffing out suspicious scents. Their keen senses let them know when something isn’t quite right, making them good at keeping watch even during tense situations.

Their protective herding instinct allows them to be good at guarding things of importance. A Border Collie’s quick movement also allows them to be efficient at patrol work. While they are smaller than most and pretty cuddly-looking, they have a lot to offer the force!

Belgian Tervuren

Handsome Dog Standing on Dry Terrain
The Belgian Tervuren’s good nose and threatening look make a good combination for police work.

One uncommon dog breed with a natural skill for police work is the Belgian Tervuren. Their wolf-like appearance is certainly very intimidating, so they are good dogs for working the field and confronting criminals. However, their skill goes far beyond making a convincing crimefighter. They are also highly valiant dogs who will not hesitate to put themselves in danger if it means furthering a mission or saving one of their teammates.

Beyond this, they have highly sensitive noses that can make short work of searching for dangerous contraband. They are a good choice for airline security for this reason, though many precincts keep them around for the invaluable service they render. Their immense loyalty makes them a good working dog, with companionship that is well-received on long nights out on patrol. This breed is a highly underrated police dog, though we hope to see more of them in the future!

Dutch Shepherd

Dog Strapped in a Bullet Vest
Dutch Shepherds are known to be persevering, protective, and persistent dogs.

Among awesome police dog breeds is the Dutch Shepherd, hailing from the Netherlands. You may mistake the Dutch Shepherd for the German Shepherd, given the similarities in their appearance. While they aren’t as popular as their iconic cousin, they are still good dogs who were bred to be efficient at herding. They are, as such, excellent at guarding and protecting, which are important skills to have when working on the force.

These dogs are just as diligent and just as determined as the GSD. They will dutifully complete assignments given to them to the best of their ability. They have a talent for tracking and serving as a security dog anywhere security is needed. Dutch Shepherds can also be trained to act as defense dogs, serving their colleagues well when facing intense situations. Their strong form allows them to be good at intimidation, as well.

Basset Hound

Dog With Floppy Ears Running in Grass
As long as its floppy ears aren’t in the way, the Basset Hound can pick up and track a scent like it’s a life mission.

When looking at the pudgy Basset Hound, you’d likely think them to be a friendly and docile dog. You’d be right, but you should also know they make amazing police dogs thanks to their scenting abilities! The Basset Hound is another talented sniffer dog, often employed for its ground-sniffing abilities. These dogs aren’t as popular as other scent hounds on the police force, but they’re still a great choice for many different kinds of task forces.

These dogs can track a myriad of objects, ranging anywhere from explosives to lost items to narcotics. They’re also good when looking for evidence and in recovering cadavers. Their strong noses allow them to be versatile workers among law enforcement.

Basset Hounds don’t possess the boundless energy as other hounds, like the Beagle. However, their laid-back nature is actually preferred when doing more serious work, like investigating a crime scene. France uses the Basset Hound extensively in their police work. There’s no surprise there, as these dogs are French, after all!

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd in Military Training
Aussies are very talented, intelligent, and obedient dogs, making them suitable for police work.

The Australian Shepherd is, incidentally, an American dog bred for complete herding excellence. Aussies have incredible athletic prowess allowing them to chase after their herds at record speeds; imagine them chasing after criminals in the same fashion!

These dogs are very active and will do very well working on the field. Patrol work comes naturally to them, as their original purpose was to patrol the grounds to keep their animals safe. These are medium-sized dogs who are skilled in many different areas of police work. They are great at retrieving and can work well in search and rescue operations.

The Aussie’s highly protective nature makes them adept at guarding people and places; if there’s anything they’re good at, it’s keeping things safe! While they aren’t particularly aggressive dogs, they can still be intimidating. As such, they’re a great choice for when you need extra defense in delicate situations.

Golden Retriever

Sweet Dog Next to Military Person in Boots
The highly trainable Golden Retriever is known to be skilled in search and rescue missions.

The Golden Retriever is another popular retriever dog you won’t normally think would do well in police work. Despite their friendly and loving nature, they are actually fantastic when used on the police force!

They are wonderful at sniffing out dangerous weapons, explosives, and substances, making them good at airports and other places needing this service. However, as you can imagine, their amiable personality and smiling faces will not make them good for more upfront work, like cornering a lawbreaker!

Still, the Golden Retriever is an athletic, intelligent, and obedient dog who can do pretty much every non-aggressive task you train them to do. They are especially skilled at search and rescue; these big, gentle dogs are known to make all the difference in being able to save a person’s life!

This is due to their stamina and determination to complete their task. They may be unlikely members of the force, but they’re fantastic public servants who definitely deserve praise.

Rajapalayam Dog

White Dog With Human Hand
Indian police officers regularly use the Rajapalayam alongside them on the force for their incredible vision and loyalty.

The final dog on our list is the regal Rajapalayam Dog. They are most popular as police dogs in their native India, but they’re such good dogs that we definitely have to talk about them, too! Rajapalayams are sighthounds, with a sharp vision that lets them easily detect when something is amiss.

This was originally bred into them to make them more suitable hunters but has since proven useful in police work. This makes them great at border patrol; they often serve to protect the borders of the Kashmir region.

The Rajapalayam is a large dog with a powerful form that can easily intimidate people with ill intentions. They are loyal to their handlers and will not like being around strangers. These traits only make them more efficient at guarding what they were assigned to. While they aren’t as popular on the force as they were in decades past, the Rajapalayam Dog is still excellent at their job. They make for a loyal companion both at work and when relaxing at the station.

Final Thoughts

While we’ve listed 25 of the best dog breeds for police and military work, there’s no doubt that in the future, we’ll be seeing a lot more variety. Mixed breed dogs in particular have been bred for highly specific temperaments that work well as service animals. The next time you see a canine police officer, be sure to give them a salute (just don’t pet them) for all the good work they do to keep us safe!

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