Police Dog Origins | The German Shepherd
The first usage of German shepherd dogs as police dogs that we know about occurred in Ghent, in Belgium, in 1859, when the Belgian police force began using dogs to patrol alongside members of the night shift. It was in Europe that we see the first flowering of German Shepherd dogs as police dogs – Austria, Hungary, France, and Germany all adopted dogs as part of the established police force system – not only German Shepherd Dogs, but also Airedales, Boxers, and Dobermans. These dogs were not quite as well-trained as contemporary police-force dogs; rather, the intention behind having dogs on the police force was to inspire fear in the hearts of potential malevolent persons – these early dogs were aggressive and terrifying, to say the least. However, all this changed in the 1890's, in Germany, when the police force began to develop official and recognized courses of training for the police dogs, who would thus therefore be useful for more than mere aggression; the new programs were able to take advantage of the special skills and abilities of the canine police-helpers.
It was in fact the German Shepherd Dog Society (or “SV” in German) that brought these training courses into the public sphere. The German Shepherd Dog Society began staging dog trials for civilian dogs in 1903, using a great deal of time and effort to train dogs not only in attack but also in nose work (i.e., tracing scents), patrol, scouting, and control as well. The end result? The German Shepherd is without question one of the most well-regarded breeds used in for police duty throughout the world.