Nine Fascinating Facts About K-9s

Join Diane Kelly, author of the Paw Enforcement mystery series and unofficial pupper pundit, as she shares 9 insights about K-9s she learned in her research. Comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Paw of the Jungle the eighth book in Diane's series.

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:

  1.  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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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?

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Paw of the Jungle by Diane Kelly!

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  1. Cynthia Johnston

    Have often wondered about the language issue. It makes sense to stay with the language of origin,especially if the bad guys might try to give the dog commands! Never thought of that . Do the stray dogs that some soldiers bring home from Afghanistan learn English ?

  2. John Smith

    Congratulations to the heroin-sniffing doggies!

  3. Anne

    Fascinating and informative post. Very smart and wonderful dogs.

  4. Pearl

    The various languages and commands make dogs even more intelligent than humans.

  5. Deb Philippon

    Really fascinating topic. I don’t know very much about the subject, and really enjoyed reading the article.

  6. Caren Luckie


  7. Ann Ivey

    How interesting. I’ve often wondered how dogs become K-9 officers.

  8. Linda Zucaro

    Looks like kitty paws should be included !

  9. Nancy

    Great post. Adorable cover. Thanks for the chance.

  10. Michael Carter

    Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

  11. Karen

    I had no idea that dogs noses separated the scenting air from just breathing. It was fun to read all these interesting K-9 facts.

  12. Carol

    This story looks wonderful!

  13. Anne - Books of My Heart

    I did a feature on K9 books for one of my memes. I didn’t know about this series so I’d be excited to read it.

  14. Tiffany

    This looks great

  15. joel W timmons

    Awesomeness. Intriguing. Read

  16. MJlawson

    Fascinating facts about K-9’s! Some I knew and some I didn’t. I love, love these books and can’t wait to read this one. Bridget just cracks me up!!

  17. Lori P

    So impressed by these dogs and lap up everything I can read about them!

  18. B. E. Dawson

    Very Interesting! I am looking forward to reading this latest story.

  19. lasvegasnv

    interesting facts

  20. Darcia Helle

    I love that rescue dogs are sometimes used for K-9 training! This series sounds fantastic!

  21. Kaye L Killgore

    I have a lot of respect for K-9’s and other working dogs. When I worked at a 911 center we got to play with one on occasion. But don’t try that when they are in their car. LOL

  22. martin bodnar

    thanks for the chance to win. . . . . . …

  23. Karen Lauterwasser

    Fascinating facts. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Diana Hardt

    It sounds like a really interesting book. Thank you for the chance.

  25. Allison McMillan-Lee

    K-9 dogs are to be honored and admired for the job they do. It breaks my heart when one is injured while doing a job they love to do.

  26. susan beamon

    I like reading stories with working dogs in them.

  27. Veronica

    I can’t wait to read this book. It looks interesting. I want to adopt a GD and it knows commands in German. I have been fortunate with my adoptions since being a teenager. All have been exceptional!

  28. Debra Schwartz

    A friend took me to watch a training session for police dogs, they were taught in German and rewarded with playtime with a ball. My friend was training her dog in Schutzhund, mostly for tracking, but her police friend was helping with training.

  29. Darlene Slocum

    Good info about the special dogs. I have followed Bridget from the beginning and always look forward to her next adventure.

  30. Laurent Latulippe

    Very interesting facts. I’ve always had dogs in my life. I love them.

  31. Nancy McElroy

    I have had a number of friends with guide dogs. The intelligence and compassion as well as personality of all service animals has always impressed takes brains and heart t serve!

  32. Saundra K. Warren

    I’ve always thought using dogs like this was a great idea!!

  33. Joyce Benzing

    All good pups!

  34. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  35. MelodyJ

    I love the cover.

  36. Lois A Becker

    I would love to win this and add it to my new author list TBR pile. Thanks.

  37. Kat Kan

    All cool stuff. My in-laws’ parents in Hawai’i (they are of Japanese descent) volunteered their dog for the U.S. Army’s K-9 Corps during WWII. It was a point of pride for them that they sent not only their sons, but their dog, to fight for the U.S. during the war. All sons came home, their dog did not.

  38. Debbie Hagedorn

    I’ll read nearly anything that involves dogs, but I especially enjoy this series. I have a GSD and see so much of her personality here! Excited for the next in this series!


    Although I knew some of the “facts” I did not know about the “flap that sections their nose and separates the air for respiration from the air used for scenting.” However, even more fascinating, I think, is that the K-9s can tell the difference between identical twins. Thanks for that article of facts.

  40. CarolT

    Ever since the long-since grown “kids” were middle schoolers learning Japanese, we’ve used Japanese for some commands with our pups. No one is ever confused that we meant the four-footed family member.

  41. Christal M

    The cover is super cute!

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