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Dog Section

The Dog Section provides a 24 hour response in keeping our communities safe throughout Northern Ireland. The section consists of two Sergeants and thirty Constables, all of whom handle and patrol with at least one police dog.

Police Dog recruits begin their working life in the police when they are approximately 18 months old and usually continue until the age of eight. They are carefully selected based on their natural abilities and these traits are then developed and enhanced by continuous training and formal assessment, ensuring that they are safe and efficient in any operational environment.

The Dog Section will regularly deploy search teams to look for missing persons, conduct searches for drugs, firearms, cash and explosive substances. The General Purpose dogs will respond to calls for assistance ranging from the recovery of stolen property, from burglaries, tracking offenders and the containment of serious crime scenes.

It is common knowledge that dogs can follow a scent trail or identify a specific scent which is undetectable to humans. Even with the development of technology the Police Dog remains one the most valuable assets in modern day policing and carries out a range of duties that couldn’t be fulfilled in any other way.

Police use a variety of proven dog breeds for general patrol duties, those being German Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd (Malinois) and Dutch Herder dogs.

Police Dog with Handler

In a typical week, officers within Dog Section will assist with the following:


Searches for missing persons.


Searches for drugs, firearms, cash or explosive substances. These will be conducted by Specialist Search Dogs.


Calls for assistance - these will be attended to by a General Purpose Dog and their Dog Handler.

General Purpose Police Dogs

Photograph of General Purpose Dog


General Purpose Dogs are multi-disciplined canines who are trained to work under a variety of conditions. Their depth of skills includes; searching for missing persons, tracking suspects from crime scenes and recovery of recently discarded articles of an evidential nature. They also protect their handler and other officers in dangerous situations and even the mere presence of these police dogs can also be enough to discourage bad behaviour.


Specialist Search Dogs

Photograph of Specialist Search Dog searching vehicle


Labradors, Springer and Cocker Spaniels are used as Specialist Search Dogs and they are trained to find specific scents. Their searching ability is economical and effective covering larger and inaccessible areas quicker than their human colleagues possibly could.

These Police Dogs are capable of searching and locating illegal drugs, firearms, cash (banknotes) and are also used for the detection of various types of explosive substances.


Passive Scanning Drugs Dogs

Photograph of Passive Scanning Drugs Dogs


Police Dog Harley and Jazz have supported a number of policing operations throughout Northern Ireland including the Tennent’s Vital event. Passive Scanning Drugs Dogs are trained to scent the air surrounding an individual person in a non-discriminatory manner and can detect illegal substances such as, cannabis and amphetamines.


Victim Recovery Dogs

Photograph of Victim Recovery Dog


Victim Recovery or Crime Scene Dogs are trained to search for and detect human remains. They can be used to detect victims of drowning, whether they are a victim of crime, accidental or other. They are also trained to search crime scenes for particles of blood or articles with blood on them.

The welfare of our dogs is of paramount importance, with regular checks by the veterinary surgeon to ensure they maintain good health and fitness. Police Dogs have a unique relationship with their handlers. They live with these officers to ensure they remain bonded and when their working life comes to an end, many will remain with their handler as a pet.

All of these operational functions contribute to delivering a high quality service and delivering on our commitments to Keeping People Safe.