Nine Fascinating Facts About K-9s
By Diane KellyNovember 25, 2019
Having grown up with multiple dogs and now living with three spoiled mutts, I’ve learned quite a bit about the canine species. Of course, all of the dogs in my family have been consistently unemployed, unless you count barking to announce the arrival of the mail carrier as a job. When I set out to write my Paw Enforcement mystery series, which stars an all-female K-9 team, I knew I’d need to perform some in-depth research on working K-9s to give the books authenticity and to make the most of the promising premise. To learn more, I read about dogs working in law enforcement, interviewed handlers, and spent several days at a K-9 conference attended by both handlers and dogs alike. During the process, I learned many fascinating facts about K-9s and the canine species. Did you know:
- K-9 History: While dogs have been domesticated since ancient times, they were first trained to assist in law enforcement in Belgium in 1899. The homophone “K-9” was first using during World War II by the U.S. Army K-9 Corps. The term “K-9” was later adopted by law enforcement.
- Job Qualifications: Some of the dogs working as K-9s come from animal shelters. Yep, while many of the dogs come from breeders, no purebred pedigree is required to serve as a K-9. Mixed-breed dogs can do just as good a job. To succeed in their careers, K-9s must be smart, high-energy, and focused. Unfortunately, many dogs flunk out of the K-9 academy due to the inability to maintain focus and follow orders. My lazy, naughty puppers would definitely earn an F!
- Taking Work Home: Officers who work as K-9 handlers not only get a partner, but they also get a roommate. Police dogs live with their handlers. Cohabitation is necessary for proper bonding as a pack.
- Years of Service: Training for a police dogs usually begins at one year to fifteen months of age, when the dogs become mature enough to concentrate. A K-9’s career generally lasts from six to nine years.
- Return on Investment: It costs around $15,000 to buy and train a police dog, but they more than earn their keep. They can perform a search in a fraction of the time it takes a human officer to do the same task, and they are less likely to miss hidden contraband. The largest K-9 assisted drug bust to date netted heroin with a street value of over $10 billion. That’s a lot of dog chow!
- Multiple Tongues: Some K-9s are bilingual. Because many are brought to the US from Europe, they’ve been trained in languages other than English. Dutch is a very common K-9 command language. The dogs’ handlers will continue to use the foreign language for commands rather than re-teaching the dogs the commands in English. The practice of using foreign words also prevents bad guys from issuing commands to K-9s.
- Sensational Sniffers: Human noses have only one section that serves both to provide us with oxygen and to funnel air to our olfactory senses. Dogs, on the other hand, have a flap that sections their nose and separates the air for respiration from the air used for scenting. With this specialized anatomy, it’s no wonder their sense of smell is so much better than ours! K-9s identify an object or person first by its scent, then by its silhouette, then by its sound. Police dogs can tell the difference between identical twins. While human eyes might not be able to discern any distinctions, a K-9’s superior nose can scent their separate identities. What’s more, cadaver dogs can detect remains buried as deep as twelve feet. That’s some sensational sniffing!
- Alerts: Dogs in law enforcement issue two types of alerts, active and passive. An active alert—pawing at something—tells the human officer that drugs, a person, or another target is hidden in the place where the dog is pawing. In a passive alert, the dog will simply sit to signify that he or she has found the target. Dogs are trained to issue passive alerts for explosives to avoid inadvertently detonating bombs and other devices.
- Work is Play: You might notice K-9s wagging their tails as they tackle a suspect. To the dogs, their work is actually play. After finding drugs or apprehending a suspect, they are rewarded by their handlers with playtime, often a fun game of tug-of-war with a towel or a game of fetch. Overtime? No problem!
About Paw of the Jungle by Diane Kelly:
Police officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner in crime, Brigit, are on all fours as they try to solve their latest Lone Star mystery.
At the Zoo
The weather is beautiful, work is slow, and her canine colleague could use a walk. What better day for Megan to take Brigit to the Fort Worth Zoo, where they can let loose and witness the law and order of nature unfold? But what begins as a fun field trip turns serious when a pair of rare hyacinth macaws named Fabiana and Fernando goes missing. Is the new custodian, a gentle soul who happens to be an ex-convict, to blame? Or is something far more sinister afoot?
And on the Hunt
The birds are worth thousands of dollars, and the list of people on the premises who might have stolen them is long. Soon other animals start disappearing. . . and Megan and Brigit have their hands and paws full of suspects. But when a rare black rhino is taken from the zoo, presumably for its black-market-friendly horn, time is of the essence. Can Megan and Brigit find out who’s behind the mystery―before they too become prey?
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