Top 10 Best Police Dog Breeds at Work in Law Enforcement services 2023

Last Updated: June 13, 2023

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dog in police uniform

For most of us, dogs are nothing more than just another member of the family! But, they can also be much more than "man's best friend."

For eons, dogs have been trained and bred to work. They've worked alongside humans throughout most of history, which is why the bond between our species is so strong.

Most dogs these days are living in the lap of luxury with nothing to do but seek affection from their owners. However, some are still out there being a formidable force in many industries.

Police dogs, in particular, play a big role in our society. You can see these pups working alongside officers to take down bad guys and offer protection. They also work with the military and several other law enforcement agencies.

But which breeds are best for law enforcement service?

German Shepherd dog breed is a good breed to serve and train as a police dog

You certainly don't see tiny Chihuahuas laying their life on the line! Police dogs need to be smart, athletic, and capable of completing the jobs they are trained to do.

There are many breeds out there that fit the bill. But, some are a better fit for the job than others. Here are the top 10 best police dog breeds.

10 Best Police Dog Breeds

German Shepherd

#1. German Shepherd

German Shepherds have all the hallmarks of a good police dog. As one of the most intelligent breeds in the world, they have no problem picking up commands.

They can quickly learn what to do in a hostile situation or how they should act when trouble calls. German Shepherds are the breed of choice in K9 units.

From a physical standpoint, German Shepherds are quite strong. They are muscular, have high endurance levels, and can become aggressive when needed. In fact, German Shepherds like to be the alpha dog even with human relationships.

It can take some time to establish dominance. But once these dogs understand their role, they are loyal through and through.


#2. Rottweiler

Rottweilers are a versatile breed. They can train to work in K9 units, guard property, and more.

Take one look at these dogs and it's not hard to see why they make good police dogs. They are fierce and intimidating!

They're fully capable of taking a person down. However, they are incredibly loyal. Rotties can develop strong bonds with partners while still being highly suspicious of strangers.

Rottweilers are cautious, confident, and always ready to jump into action. With their strong and muscular bodies, they have no problem defending partners when needed.


#3. Bloodhound

These pups don't look like your traditional police dog. They aren't the most athletic and have floppy ears you just want to play with. But,...

They have one key trait that makes them a good choice for long enforcement: their sense of smell.

A bloodhound's olfactory senses are reportedly 1,000 times stronger than a human's! As a result, these guys typically work detection-focused jobs. They can train to detect narcotics or explosives. But, they most often work as part of search and rescue teams.

Bloodhounds were one of the very first breeds in law enforcement and continue to serve today.

Cane Corso

#4. Cane Corso

Cane Corsos were originally bred to fight alongside Roman soldiers. Needless to say, they have a lot to offer law enforcement.

Right now, Cane Corsos aren't very prevalent in the field. But, you can often see them working with private security companies and protection agencies.

These dogs are built like bricks! They're strong and vicious, making quick work of a would-be intruder or attacker.

Another positive trait of this dog is its suspicious nature. No matter how well-trained and socialized this dog is, it will bark at strangers. Thus, they make perfect guard dogs.

Labrador Retriever

#5. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular family breeds around. But to the surprise of many, they're often used in law enforcement, too.

It's all in the breed's name...

These pups were first bred as hunting companions. Not only can they help bag prey, but they also did a great job of finding birds and other small animals shot from a distance.

Labrador Retrievers usually work with narcotics or search and rescue missions. They do a fine job of finding people buried under debris after a natural or manmade disaster.

Pair that with their loyalty and they make great candidates for law enforcement.

German Short-Haired Pointe

#6. German Short-Haired Pointe

Pointers are an old breed that's been around since the 1800s. Back then, they were impeccable hunting companions.

They are most known for their signature pointing stance, which helps hunters find potential game.

From a personality standpoint, German Short-Haired Pointers aren't great for K9 units. They are far too friendly and docile! But, they do great work in any detection-based job.

Most German Short-Haired Pointers in the force work to find narcotics or missing persons. This breed is also frequently used by agencies like the TSA.

Doberman Pinscher

#7. Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinschers are the fifth most intelligent dog breed around. They are quick learners and can understand an impressive collection of commands!

That said, their most formidable trait is their speed and power.

These dogs are agile runners that can zip past suspects on the run. Thanks to their strong build, they'll have no problem taking them out, too!

Doberman Pinschers are quite loyal as well. They stand by their owners and will not hesitate to jump in front of partners in the face of danger.

This breed is less common nowadays in law enforcement due to the cost of training and adoption. But, there are plenty of Doberman Pinschers still working today!


#8. Beagle

Believe it or not, Beagles are great in law enforcement. Like the Bloodhound, it's the sense of smell that helps them excel in this field.

Beagles are relatively small and easy to manage, so many departments choose to train these guys instead of Bloodhounds.

With one of the best noses in the canine world, Beagles do best searching for narcotics. You may also see them working in search and rescue departments or as cadaver dogs after a disaster.

While not the most athletic dog around, their strong senses certainly make them a worthy addition to any law enforcement team.

Belgian Malinois

#9. Belgian Malinois

Here's a breed that most people have never heard of. The Belgian Malinois is the smaller cousin of the German Shepherd. They look similar but have a smaller build.

Despite being smaller, they are actually a bit more athletic than the German Shepherd.

Belgian Malinois dogs are a good all-around law enforcement contender. They do well in K9 units, as they are able to chase and catch suspects. However, they also do well in detection jobs.

One of the most popular Belgian Malinois dogs, Cairo, even worked alongside Navy Seal Team Six to take down Osama Bin Ladden!


#10. Boxer

Boxers are another good "all-around" dog breed for law enforcement. Throughout history, these dogs have been a part of major wars and battles.

They were, at one point, one of the go-to K9 unit dogs.

Boxers aren't as popular anymore for law enforcement, but there are still plenty of departments training them.

These dogs are athletic and fiercely loyal. They are good fighters and will jump into action if the moment calls for it! With their high intelligence, Boxers can also learn a litany of commands for easy control.

Types of Police Dogs and The Jobs They Can Do..

Police dogs aren't just limited to one job. Like human positions, the opportunities for dogs in law enforcement are quite vast! Typically, canines are trained to perform one specific duty. The job they get depends entirely on their traits, which we'll get to later.

For now, here's some information about the kinds of jobs dogs can get in law enforcement. Keep in mind, this is just a small list. With an intelligent and highly trainable dog breed, the possibilities are endless!

K9 Units

Here's the most common position people think of when they image canine law enforcement. K9 units, a nickname for canine units, are a special division of police that consists of officers and trained dogs.

These pups can do a lot. You'll often see them accompanying their human partner on calls. They act as backup and wear many hats on the job. These dogs undergo a lot of training to take down suspects, lead police officers to illegal substances, and more.

Dogs in K9 units are the best of the best. They start training as a puppy and usually retire sometime between the age of seven and 11. The good news is that many police officers adopt their partners after retirement. If they don't, another family does. Either way, these dogs get to enjoy home life after serving the police force.

Narcotics Detection

Dogs that have a keen sense of smell will often end up working in the narcotics department. Their job is to find and identify illegal substances.

Dogs have an acute sense of smell that's far stronger than ours. As a result, they can detect drugs that are out of sight. Typically, these dogs are trained to spot a wide range of substances. However, some may specialize in specific substances based on where they work. 

You'll see these dogs working alongside K9 units, in airport security checkpoints, and any other location that needs to be drug-free.

You can find more information on detection dogs and their training on the Diagnose website

Search and Rescue

Like dogs in the narcotics department, search and rescue dogs rely on their sense of smell to get the job done. The main difference is what these dogs are looking for. They're working to find humans!

Law enforcement officials will bring out search and rescue dogs to find missing kids. They can also help find survivors or bodies after a natural disaster.

Bomb Squad

Bomb squad dogs are an elite bunch that plays a big part in keeping our airports, entertainment venues, and government buildings safe. They train to spot minute traces of explosives.

Not only do they train to familiarize themselves with the smells to look out for, but they train to learn where to look.

If you get the opportunity to watch a bomb squad dog in action, you'll notice that they look in small openings and crevices to find their target.

Protection and Patrol

Finally, we have dogs that offer protection and guarding services! Like your guard dog at home, these dogs make sure that no one is lurking on a property.

Oftentimes, security personnel will work with these dogs to secure a building or patrol a piece of property at night. You can also see them in places with a lot of people.

There, they act as backup just in case something comes up.

Traits That Make a Good Law Enforcement Dog

Dogs are complex creatures! Among the hundreds of breeds out there, some traits are much more desirable in the law enforcement industry. Here are some of the most common.

High Intelligence

This is, by far, the most important trait for any dog working in law enforcement. These dogs go through some intense training to get to the point where they can work alongside humans. If a dog isn't able to pick up commands and understand their objectives, they aren't going to do a good job on the field.

Highly intelligent dogs are a staple in law enforcement. In our list above, intelligence is the one common denominator all dogs share.

Impressive Athleticism

An athletic dog can take down baddies, ward off intruders, and protect their team. Breeds that are prone to weight issues usually don't make the cut. Police dogs need to have high endurance and the ability to outrun suspects, so athletic dogs are always favorable.

Suspicion of Strangers

Have you noticed that some dogs are always suspicious of strangers no matter how well-socialized they are? While this might pose a problem at home, it's perfect in law enforcement! Suspicious dogs will look at everyone with a bit of doubt. They can't be won over with a treat. As a result, they fit right in at guard positions!

Related: How Good are Golden Retrievers as Guard Dogs

Strong Sense of Smell

All canines have a strong sense of smell. But, some are better at detecting odors than others. These are the dogs you'll see working in search and rescue, bomb squad, and narcotics departments.

Their abilities go beyond that of most breeds, so they can find their targets without missing a beat.

Related: 10 Scents that Dogs Hate


Last, but not least, police dogs need loyalty. Again, this is a given with most breeds. However, some breeds are more aloof and independent than others. Police dogs must pay attention at all times and be willing to lay their life on the line with their partners.


While the breeds went over are some of the best candidates for law enforcement work, there are many others out there!

Police dogs are the unsung heroes of the force. They can do tasks that are beyond the capabilities of humans. They work hard to support the greater good and keep citizens safe.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.