How do police officers know areas so well?
Initially, police officers took their private dogs with them on patrol. In 1896 Hildesheim was the first city to send twelve police dogs to the night watch. Today thousands of dogs are used by the police in Germany. The Federal Police alone employs around 500 service dogs.
The "supernatural" dog
Dogs can smell much better than humans. Scientists have found that, for example, he can perceive butyric acid a million times better than we can.
The actual olfactory organ of the dog is the nasal mucous membrane. In a trained dog, it has an average area of 151 square centimeters, whereas in humans it is only about 50 square millimeters.
The mucous membrane in dogs is about 0.1 millimeters thick, in humans only 0.006 millimeters. There are around 220 million olfactory cells in the dog's olfactory mucosa, compared to only around five million in humans.
It is particularly helpful for its work in the police that the dog can selectively perceive a mixture of scents. This means that it can analyze subcomponents, store this odor information in memory and later reliably recognize it. This is why the dog's olfactory brain takes up a relatively large part of the brain volume compared to humans.
The dog's hearing is also exceptionally good. A dog can perceive vibrations in the ultrasonic range up to 40,000 Hertz. Human perception ends at around 20,000 Hertz. Even so-called infrasound below 16 Hertz, which humans can no longer hear, the dog can still register.
The dog's movably arranged auricles allow it to locate sources of noise with a deviation of no more than one to two percent. Man would almost certainly miss the same source of noise.
With these abilities, the dog puts not only humans, but also every technology developed so far in the shade. That's why it's ideal for police work.
Training a police dog
Most dogs are bought by the police between the ages of one and two. There is a maximum of one out of 100 dogs at the entrance examination that is suitable for police service. Above all, it comes down to courage.
The handler must be able to rely on his dog just as he can on a human colleague. During the training, the dog learns that he is only allowed to bark at a person who stands still and does not run away and must not attack them under any circumstances.
A police dog is trained by its own dog handler under the guidance of a so-called training instructor. Basic training lasts around 70 days.
It includes the targeted tracing of evidence, the pursuit of perpetrator tracks, the tracking of hidden persons, the pursuit and detention of fleeing perpetrators, the defense against attacks on one's own dog handler as well as various obedience exercises.
Every police service dog is tested at the end of its training according to the regulations of an examination regulation. This test is repeated every year.
After the training there is a close relationship of trust between the police dog and the dog handler. The dog lives in the family of its "master", the so-called police service dog handler. The police authorities pay for feed and veterinary costs. When a dog is "retired", it usually spends its old age in this family as well.
Protect, repel, bark
Not all police dogs are the same. There are specialists for different tasks. The normal Schutzhund accompanies its handler during the daily service. He protects him from attackers and helps in the search for criminals.
The Schutzhund is characterized by the fact that it can smell particularly well, is quick and can defend itself well. He catches and barks fleeing perpetrators and looks for missing children or other helpless people.
The sniffer dog
Dogs that have a particularly pronounced play and prey drive can be trained to become sniffer dogs after their basic training. This training takes about three months. In the habituation phase, drugs, explosives or other odor samples are packaged in such a way that the dog can play with them safely.
Through play, the dog gets used to the smell of the packaged object and connects it more and more with the toy. In the further course of the training, the dog is made familiar with all possible hiding places so that it has already experienced as many situations as possible that may come up to it in action.
The police sniffer dog can be used in practically any location, in any weather and in all lighting conditions. It provides valuable services even in inaccessible places. Agents used by offenders, such as sprays or irritants, cannot fool the sensitive dog's nose.
He even perceives materials that are welded into foil or rubber. However, a sniffer dog cannot be used for all areas of criminal work. That is why there are also specialists among the sniffer dogs.
Specialist: drug sniffer dog
During his training, the drug sniffer dog gets to know all known natural and synthetic drugs. The training builds on the dog's strong play and prey drive. In a toy, drug preparations are hidden that the dog can only perceive through the smell.
Through play and search exercises, the dog notices that in the weather of certain scent molecules he can work his way through scratching or biting a drug stash.
Specialist: tracking dog
The training of tracking dogs aims to let the dog track down small hidden evidence at confusing crime scenes. The dog is guided by the human smell that clings to an object.
He is also conditioned to follow the trail of a perpetrator. This works particularly well in nature. A person injures the ground or vegetation with every step. For dogs, these injuries cause highly perceptible biochemical processes.
Specialist: odor traces comparison dog
With the help of the traces of smell comparison dog, the police check whether traces of smell on evidence can be assigned to a suspect. Since every person has an individual odor pattern, this odor can be transferred to objects through all body excretions (sweat, blood and so on) and can be detected.
If the dog recognizes a criminal by his smell, this has the evidential value of a photograph of the perpetrator. In order to increase the security of this procedure, three sniffer dogs are used for each case, which must come to the same result independently of one another.
Specialist: explosives detection dog
Explosives detection dogs are trained on commercial and military explosives, weapons, and ammunition. They indicate to their guide that they have perceived specific odor molecules.
Comparative exercises with technical explosives detectors have shown that dogs can locate explosives faster and more safely. So far, the use of explosive dogs in the search for weapons, projectiles and casings has been particularly successful.
Specialist: Corpse Tracking Dog
Corpse detection dogs indicate to their handler by scratching and biting that a corpse must be, or at least was, here. This makes it possible to correctly identify the trunk of a vehicle in which a corpse was transported, even if it was thoroughly cleaned after transport.
Corpse detection dogs can also detect gases rising through corpses or body parts that are in a body of water near the shore.
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