The Secret Service’s Hidden Protectors. The Dogs That Guard The President


The United States Secret Service is a federal law enforcement agency charged with conducting criminal investigations and protecting the nation’s leaders, including the President of the United States. The Secret Service began utilizing dogs in the 1970s when they created the K-9 division, which paired specially trained dogs with handlers known as K-9 Technicians.1 These highly skilled dogs work to protect the President, Vice President, their families, and other officials. The Secret Service dog program has grown over the decades and continues to play a vital role in keeping the nation’s highest elected leaders safe.

Types of Secret Service Dogs

The Secret Service utilizes several different types of dogs to help protect the President, Vice President, their families, visiting foreign dignitaries, and other high-profile figures. The main types of Secret Service dogs include:

Explosive Detection Dogs – These dogs are experts at sniffing out explosive materials and devices. They help sweep venues ahead of events and patrol around secure areas. Popular breeds for this role include Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds (Source).

secret service dog doing training exercise

Patrol Dogs – Also known as K-9 dogs, these act as extra “eyes and ears” for Secret Service agents. They are trained to detect and detain intruders. Common patrol breeds are Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, and German Shepherds (Source).

Tracking Dogs – Specializing in trailing specific human scents, tracking dogs are brought in if someone tries to escape a protected site. Bloodhounds are most often used due to their incredible sense of smell and tracking abilities.

Tactical/Attack Dogs – Some K-9 dogs receive additional training to physically stop and apprehend suspects if commanded. These dogs must demonstrate confidence, control, and appropriate aggression (Source).

Breeds Used

The Secret Service commonly uses Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers as working dogs [1]. These breeds are known for their intelligence, trainability, and ability to detect explosives and other threats [2].

belgian malinois police dog
Belgian Malinois are energetic dogs that excel at protection work. German Shepherds are large, powerful dogs that are easy to train for a variety of tasks. Labrador Retrievers have a keen sense of smell and an even temperament suitable for crowded environments.

Other breeds like Dutch Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Springer Spaniels have also been used occasionally by the Secret Service. Ultimately they look for dogs with the right temperament and drive to undergo the rigorous training required for their critical role in protecting the President and other officials.


Secret Service dogs go through extensive training to prepare them for their important jobs protecting the president, vice president, their families, and other officials. The Secret Service began its canine program in 1975, and today the dogs are considered highly trained federal agents.

The training starts when the dogs are just puppies. They undergo obedience training and are socialized to be comfortable around people, loud noises, and hectic environments. Once they reach maturity around age 2, the dogs move on to more advanced training at the Secret Service training facility in Maryland.

secret service dogs training

Here the dogs learn how to detect explosives by scent and receive specialized training tailored to their specific duties, which may include patrol, crowd control, or protecting the White House grounds. They practice simulated attacks, learn to respond to gunfire, and are exposed to potentially dangerous scenarios in a controlled setting.

According to a former head of the Secret Service dog training program, it takes thousands of repetitions for the dogs to master the skills needed to fulfill their roles (“Navy Rescues Dogs From Outfit Hired To Make Them Narcotics Sniffers,” 2010). The training is ongoing throughout the dogs’ careers to keep their skills sharp.

By the time they officially join the Secret Service, these dogs have undergone many months of highly specialized training unmatched by most working dogs. Their preparation enables them to excel in the demanding, high-stakes environment surrounding the U.S. president and other protectees.


Secret Service dogs perform a variety of duties to help protect the President, Vice President, their families, presidential candidates, and visiting foreign dignitaries. Some of their main duties include:

  • Explosives detection – These dogs are trained to detect explosive materials and alert their handlers if they smell anything suspicious. They sweep venues and motorcades to help ensure safety.
  • Crowd control – The dogs help manage crowds around protectees. Their presence can discourage bystanders from getting too close.
  • Building searches – Secret Service dogs search buildings ahead of protectee visits to check for threats like explosives.
  • Patrols – The dogs patrol the White House grounds and other areas with their handlers as an added layer of security.
  • Intruder alerts – The dogs will bark to alert handlers if an intruder breaches a secure area around a protectee.

According to the Secret Service, their dogs are trained to meet and maintain performance standards set by the Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthogonal Detection Guidelines (SWGDOG). This ensures the dogs are highly skilled at carrying out their protective duties.

Notable Dogs

The Secret Service employs some of the most elite and talented dogs in the world. Here are some of the most famous Secret Service K9s that have helped protect the President and White House over the years:

K9 Hurricane is one of the most renowned Secret Service dogs. He served from 2008-2018, working under President Barack Obama. Hurricane helped screen over 1 million people at venues with Obama and was known for his top detection skills. He also assisted with numerous security sweeps.

famous secret service dog hurricane

K9 Jordan was the explosive detection canine that helped secure Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, one of the largest security events after 9/11. She worked tirelessly screening over 100,000 fans, cars, limos, and VIPs. Jordan worked for the Secret Service from 2001-2008, helping protect President Bush.

K9 Kurt began his career in 1997 and worked under President Bill Clinton. He was an expert patrol and apprehension K9 that provided crucial protection at the White House during his career. Kurt participated in over 1,300 missions and responded to White House alarms over 70 times before retiring in 2002.


After about 10 to 11 years of service, Secret Service dogs retire and their handlers are able to adopt them. Retirement is a well-deserved reward for the canines’ years of loyal service and hard work protecting the President, other important officials, and the White House. The dogs form tight bonds with their handlers, so adopting them into their forever homes allows for more quality time together.

In December 2022, a Belgian Malinois named Hurricane, who served from 2008 to 2019, earned the Guinness World Record title for the Most Wins at the Secret Service Super Bowl. This competition evaluates the dogs on obedience, agility, searching, and attacking. Hurricane’s impressive eight championship wins highlight his top-notch abilities as a Secret Service dog. After retirement, these loyal pups receive all the relaxation, playtime, love, and treats they deserve.

The Vital Impact

Secret Service dogs have a crucial impact on security for the White House, homeland security, and protecting VIPs and crowds at large events. Their keen sense of smell and extensive training allows them to detect explosives and other threats that technology and humans might miss. According to Psychology Today, Secret Service dogs provide “capabilities that no manmade device can currently replace” when it comes to sniffing out C4 plastic explosives and suicide bomber vests.

These dogs act as an invaluable first line of defense against potential attacks and threats. Their presence likely deters would-be attackers from targeting an area or event. The Secret Service credits its K-9 teams with boosting security and saving many lives through their preventative work sniffing out dangers. While technology like x-ray machines and metal detectors serves an important role, dogs have unique abilities to literally sniff out threats.

In addition to deterrence and detection, Secret Service dogs also provide a calming presence in crowds. Their friendly nature and cute appearance helps put people at ease despite the heightened security. They make security measures seem less intimidating. The dogs have become goodwill ambassadors representing the Secret Service positively.


There have been a few controversies related to Secret Service dogs over the years. In 2021, President Biden’s two German Shepherds, Major and Champ, were involved in some biting incidents at the White House. Major reportedly bit two Secret Service agents, leaving one with an injury that required medical attention (Secret Service agents outraged by White House spin over first dog bites – NY Post). This led to Major being sent for additional training. Additionally, in September 2022, Biden’s new rescue dog Commander bit a Secret Service agent, causing a minor injury. This raised further questions about the suitability of rescue dogs for the White House (Opinion Master and Commander: Biden’s dog troubles hint at a disorderly White House – Washington Post).

These incidents caused some controversy and complaints from Secret Service agents about the lack of consequences for the dogs. However some experts noted that dog bites, while unacceptable, are an occupational hazard for Secret Service agents interacting closely with dogs. Overall the controversies highlighted the challenges of properly training and acclimating dogs to the high-stress White House environment.


The Secret Service dog program dates back over a century and has been an instrumental part of protecting the President and other officials. Originally used for protection against counterfeiting, Secret Service dogs now provide invaluable eyes, ears and noses for Secret Service teams. With expert training starting from a young age, these highly intelligent and agile canines have stopped numerous threats over the years. While the program has evolved, the Secret Service continues to rely on a select few breeds particularly well-suited for their duties. Controversies around handler misconduct have arisen, but stringent oversight aims to uphold the highest standards. As technology advances, the role of Secret Service dogs may shift, but their importance for years to come is without question. By recounting key historical events, duties, canine members and controversies, this article has provided an in-depth look into the vital role these dogs play within the agency and their continuing impact on presidential security.

Scroll to Top