Current Issue Paper
Detection dogs have become an integral part of the criminal justice system over the past centuries. Military personnel and law enforcement officers alike utilize canines as companions and partners in the field due to their strength and attributes of loyalty and courage, which complement that of his handler. It was not until the late 1800s that canines would be utilized to their full potential as detection dogs by using their heightened sense of smell to further their contribution to civil services. Thus, before entering the work force, detection dogs and their handlers must undergo extensive training to ensure “familiarization” between man and dog and dog and his purpose.
Canines, as a whole, have a long and detailed history of partnership with human beings dating back to centuries Before the Common Era (B.C.E.). During that time, dogs were primarily used as warriors and guards in service to Egyptians, Greeks, and Persians (Chapman, 1960, p.8).
It eventually globalized to the west coast of Europe in the early 1300s where dogs patrolled the perimeter of Saint Males in France. However, it was not until the late 1800s that canines would be utilized primarily for their heightened sense of smell. As early as 1888, blood hounds were employed by Scotland Yard for scent detection in the “Jack the Ripper” case (United States
Department of Agriculture, 2013, p.178). Although the dogs did not pose sufficient assistance, the British Police and Military continued to explore the use of dogs in olfactory work. Hence, during World War I, dogs were trained to detect land minds and trained to detect munitions caches in World War II. The Nazi Army was the first to use scent detector dog units. As a group, the dogs were trained to follow the tracks of British Special Air Services who parachuted into
Germany trying to collect intelligence just prior to the start of World War II. The dogs were trained to follow a given scent on the ground, be it a footprint, an article of clothing, or a blood trail, and be able to discriminate among hundreds of other odors that had crossed it to lead the
Nazis to the British. However, it was not until the 1960s that dogs would be used to detect illegal substances such as narcotics, explosives, and contraband. In 1970, the U.S. Customs and Border
Protection began an experimental narcotic detector dog training program. The program focused on four main drugs: marijuana, hashish, cocaine, and heroin. Around the same time, the British
Royal Army Veterinary Corps began training its own Army dogs to do the same. Shortly thereafter, they began to further their narcotic detection program with explosive detection work as well. The U.S. followed suit in 1973, and by the mid-1970s, government agencies around the globe were utilizing canines for specialized task forces.
As a result, countries began to breed dogs to fit the ‘ideal’ make-up of a detection dog that filled their minds. All breeds of canines contain a superior level of olfactory, but not every breed has the endurance or strength for optimal performance, essentially eliminating them as a contender to track down criminals or missing persons. Therefore, there are three main breeds that remain top choices for police agencies today: German shepherds, Blood Hounds, and Beagles.
German Shepherds are synonymous with the phrase “police dog”. German shepherds are the oldest breed of dog on record, reputed to be 20,000 years old and dating back to the Bronze Age
(Brown, 1970, p.61). So, one could conclude that it is the length of time German shepherds have occupied this earth that has given them time to evolve into the hard-working animal they are seen as today. With a high degree of intelligence, combined with nobility and strength, the German shepherd has earned its title as the most common dog utilized in canine units presently because they are so well rounded.