Donate Now

How To: Become A K-9 Officer

October 30, 2021

K-9 officers have pretty exciting and rewarding jobs. In partnership with their police dogs, K-9 officers are dispatched to some of the most intense and intricate service calls. Using their training and skills, these human-dog teams hunt down dangerous criminals, seek out hidden narcotics, find missing persons, and locate explosives on deadline. But how does a person become a K-9 officer? How long does it take to become a K-9 officer?  Can anyone pursue this profession? In this article, we tackle what it takes to become a K-9 officer.

Requirements For Becoming A K-9 Officer

Every state has its own requirements and procedures for becoming a K-9 officer. However, the main prerequisite for becoming a K-9 officer is first becoming a police officer. To become a police officer, most candidates need a high school diploma. It’s becoming more common for departments to require at least 2 years of college, too. In the preliminary phase, police applicants will take written, oral, and physical agility exams. Successful candidates will then proceed to an intense background check, psychology assessment, polygraph exam and medical evaluation. The candidates who pass all phases of the hiring process will attend a police academy, followed by rigorous field training. Once a police officer has few years on the job, most departments will deem the officer eligible to apply for a specialized assignment, such as the K-9 Unit.

K-9 Officer Licensure and Certifications

Just like each state has its own requirements for becoming a police officer, each state has its own stipulations for working with a K-9. Some states require K-9 officers to complete a training program with their canine partners, while other states require professional certification. The United States Police Canine Association is one organization that offers certifications. Whether you need to take a training course or achieve a certification, you can expect to spend a lot of time training with your dog to become a master at the craft of dog handling. ​

Where Do K-9 Officers Work?

Many police departments across the nation have their own K-9 Units. Some K-9 Units are very small, with only one dog. Other police departments, particularly big city departments, have the funds for multiple dogs. For example, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has about 34 working dogs, each with varying responsibilities such as criminal apprehension and patrol, narcotic detection, and explosive detection. Other than city and town police departments, K-9 officers can work for a variety of law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Remember, working dogs routinely face dangerous assignments. They put their lives on the line for the greater good of the community. So, if you would like to help protect police dogs in the line of duty, please go to our donations page or click on the button below. Every donation goes toward providing K-9s with a LOF StreetFighter K-9 vest. No contribution is too small.

Donate Now