K9 Frequently Asked Questions

1Where do the K9s live?
All K9s become a vital part to the police family. In addition to this, they become members of their handler’s family. When not at work the dogs live at the handler’s home. During this time the dogs spend time with their families as any other dog does. It is not uncommon for the dogs to go camping or hiking with their handlers while off-duty.
2Do the K9 teams visit schools and other social gatherings?
Yes. The squad does regular demonstrations for scout troops, school functions, and other community gatherings. They are not available for birthday parties or other private functions. Please call (801)-799-3400 to arrange a visit.
3Can I support SLCPD’s K9 Squad?

Yes. The Squad operates on a very tight budget. The dogs are fed high quality dog food and they receive the absolute best vet care in the region. With these expenses, it is difficult for the teams to attend training and competitions. We feel strongly that by keeping the dogs on the cutting edge of proficiency, we are keeping ourselves, other officers, and the citizens of Salt Lake safer. We are in the process of setting up a 501(c) 3 account and more information will be posted when available. In the mean time you can donate to the K9 Squad through the SLCPD PMAA:

SLCPD K9 Unit
c/o SLCPD PMAA
PO Box 145497
SLC, UT 84114, 5497

4Can I PLEASE touch/pet the dogs??
As with any dog, you must absolutely ask the handler before approaching. It is important to remember that the patrol dogs are trained in handler protection and apprehension and part of their job is biting. It is important to have the handler’s permission, as they will know best how to introduce you properly if that is an option.
5Do the dogs like to bite?
Police K9s only bite when absolutely necessary to protect themselves, their handler, another officer or citizen, or when they need to capture a fleeing felony suspect. Most often, when faced with a confrontation with a police dog, criminal suspects choose to surrender peacefully. When the dogs to bite, they are trained to bite and hold the suspect until their handler is able to take over and place them into custody safely. This usually results in very minor injury to the suspect. Salt Lake Police K9s are primarily used as search tools. They enjoy hunting for and finding people, articles of evidence and drugs.
6Who trains the dogs?
All dogs are trained in-house and on-duty. Officer Russ Peterson and Officer Nick Pearce are the department instructors for the squad and oversee the training for both patrol and tracking dogs. The patrol dogs are certified annually in both patrol and narcotic functions through the State of Utah, under Utah POST standards.
7How old are the dogs when they start training?
We normally try to get patrol dog candidates as close to 1 ½ years old as possible. This is to maximize the working life, and minimize the down time dealing with developing a dog from puppyhood. Dogs can begin their training at a very young age. Bloodhounds are purchased as puppies and start training at that time, usually 8-10 weeks old!
8How long does it take to train the dogs?
Basic training for the patrol dogs takes approximately 4 months of full-time work, sometimes longer. After they become certified they receive about 2 hours of in-service training per 10 hour shift. We continue to train them daily until they retire.
9How old are the dogs when they retire?
Our basic rule of thumb for retiring the dogs is 7 years of service or 10 years of age. Of course, actual retirement depends on the physical condition of the dog and their continued willingness to work. Going to work every day is what they enjoy the most. Early retirement is not fair to them unless there is a physical limitation.
10Where do they live during retirement?
Each dog is a member of the handler’s family. In almost all cases the dog retires with that family. Only in the most extreme of cases is there an exception to this. If the dog is handled by more than one officer during their career it will normally retire with the last officer it work with.
11How do officers get selected to become a K9 Handler?
Candidates must pass a rigorous screening process, sometimes even involving members of their family. Several officers compete for each opening on the squad and competition is tough. Additionally, this assignment lasts a long time so there is not much movement or openings on the squad. We choose our K9 Officers from among the most effective officers within the department. Each candidate is then evaluated on many dimensions in order to determine which one will be the most effective when paired with a PSD.
12How much do the dogs cost?
To put some perspective to it; out of every 1,000 potential dog candidates, it is estimated that only 2 will have the drive set, characteristics, and temperament to be part of our program. Dogs that meet our high standard selection cost between $8,000-$10,000 each! Fortunately when measured in terms of effectiveness and community safety, the payback period on the initial investment is very short!
13Where does SLCPD get the dogs from?
We buy the dogs from vendors who specialize in selling police dogs. Most often the dogs are born and developed in Europe and then shipped to the United States to be sold. Sometimes we are able to get one from within the United States, but it is rare.
14How is a dog able to smell so much better than humans?
A number of things contribute to a dog’s keen sense of smell. Their long snouts have a large turbinates bone structure that holds millions of scent receptor cells, plus the olfactory lobe of there is much larger than that of a human being.
15Is hurting a police service dog the same as hurting a police officer?
Injuring or killing a police service dog is a 3rd degree felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years. We invest considerable resources in our K9 partners and we consider them officers in every sense. They put their lives on the line every day to protect the community and the officers of the Salt Lake City Police Department.
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