K-9 Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. What kind of dogs do you use?
We use Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds.

Q. Who trains the dogs?
We train all of our dogs “in house.” This means that the handler and the unit trainer train them. No private individuals are involved in training our dogs.

Q. Do the dogs live with their handlers?
Yes. Each dog is assigned to one handler who is responsible for the care of the dog. The dogs live at home with their handler in a kennel provided by the city.

Q. How old are the dogs when they start training?
Dogs are carefully screened and tested before they begin training. The dogs need to have the appropriate drive for Police work. They must also be environmentally sound and mature to deal with the pressures of training. We also want the dog to be fully developed so we can get a good x-ray of the hips and elbows. In order to properly test a dog we like the dogs to be about 18 months to 3 years old.

Q. How old are the dogs when they retire?
We do not retire a dog based upon a certain age. It depends on their health, but generally a Police Dog retires around 8 or 9 years old. We did have a dog successfully work past 10 years of age.

Q.Where do they go when they retire?
It has been the city's practice to let the dogs live out the remainder of their lives with the handlers with whom they worked their career.

Q.How long are the dogs trained?
The K-9 team completes a 400-hour basic patrol and detection course.

Q.How do officers get selected to become canine handlers?
Officers must complete an application process and an interview. We generally look for dependable, self-motivated officers. An officer in the K-9 unit must be able to work without direct supervision and be extremely motivated. Candidates must also have been an officer for at least two years.

Q.Where does WSPD get their dogs from?
We get our dogs from a K-9 vendor who imports them from Europe. We receive calls from the public about donating dogs to the department and they are welcome; however, they usually don’t pass our screening process.

Q.How much do the dogs cost?
A dog usually costs between $3500 to $8000. This may seem like a lot but the dog will usually pay for itself within the first six months on the street after training.

Q.Who pays for the care of the dogs?
The City of Winston-Salem pays for all of the dog's upkeep. They are provided with the very best medical care available. Their food, flea spray, bowls, toys, leashes, and all other equipment are also provided by the city.

Q.Are the dogs safe when left in their patrol cars while the handler isn't there?
Absolutely! The canine vehicles are equipped with the most up-to-date canine safety devices on the market. Heat sensors in the car will activate the car's horn, roll down the back windows and turn on a fan in the car if the dog's area gets too warm. Remote control door opening ensures the dog can get out of the car to assist the handler at the touch of a button or in any other emergency situation.

Q.How is a dog able to smell so well?
A number of things contribute to the dog's keen sense of smell. Their long snouts have a large turbinate bone structure that holds millions of scent receptor cells, plus the olfactory lobe of their brain is much larger than that of a human being.

Q.Is hurting a Police Dog the same as hurting a Police Officer?
A person who willfully causes or attempts to cause harm to a police dog is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. A person who willfully causes or attempts to cause serious harm to a police dog is a Class 1 Felony.

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