Why Do Police Not Use Female Dogs?

Why Have Only Males Traditonally Worked the Beat?

The next time you see a police dog assisting in an investigation or sniffing for contraband, take note of whether it’s male or female. Chances are high you’ll see a male dog. In fact, the large majority – over 90% of police dogs in the United States and Canada are male.

This pronounced gender skew raises many questions. Do male dogs have inherent qualities that make them better police dogs? Can both genders be equally capable and effective? Or are certain biases at play in how dogs are selected and trained? In this article, we’ll look at the history of police dogs, the reasoning behind predominantly choosing males, and whether attitudes are shifting towards more equal opportunity in law enforcement for both male and female dogs.

History of Police Dogs

The use of dogs in policing has origins going back thousands of years. One of the first recorded uses of dogs in law enforcement was in ancient Egypt, where bloodhounds were used to track down escaped slaves and criminals (DogTrainerCollege, 2021). In Europe during the Middle Ages, handlers used large dogs to guard castles and assist knights in battle. The first organized police dog units emerged in France in the 14th century, focused on protecting travelers along roadways from thieves.

In more modern times, England established the first metropolitan police force in London in 1829 and introduced bloodhounds to help detect and locate criminals in parks and crowded urban areas (Dogster, 2022). This paved the way for more widespread use of dogs in policing as urbanization increased. Police forces in Germany and Belgium began deploying dogs in the late 1800s. One of the first formal police dog training centers opened in Ghent, Belgium in 1899.

Police dogs grew in popularity in the United States in the early 20th century. In New York, dogs initially assisted with controlling crowds and patrolling the transit system. The first specially trained police dogs were introduced in New York in 1907 to accompany officers on patrols and respond to major crimes. This paved the way for police dog units to be established in cities across America over the next few decades (DogTrainerCollege, 2021).

Desirable Traits in Police Dogs

Police dogs are selected and trained for several key traits that make them well-suited for law enforcement duties. Some of the most important desirable qualities in police dogs include:

Intelligence – Police dogs need to be smart and able to follow commands and learn complex tasks. Intelligent breeds like German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch Shepherds are often chosen. As one source notes, “A police K9 dog should be able to perform job duties while also being able to remain calm and friendly when needed.” [1]

Trainability – Police dogs must be trainable and willing to work closely with a human partner. Their drive to work and please their handler enables effective training. As one article states, “Inherent traits like drive and temperament, combined with fundamentals like environmental stability and control, are vital when selecting a Police Dog.” [2]

Sense of Smell – Keen sense of smell is critical for tasks like tracking and narcotics detection. Breeds like Bloodhounds are prized for their powerful noses. But most police dogs used for a variety of tasks have excellent smelling abilities. [3]

Stamina – Police dogs need energy and endurance to work long hours and cover ground tracking suspects or searching wide areas. Athletic high-drive breeds are best suited for maintaining intense focus over an extended period.

Aggressiveness – While friendliness and sociability are also important, police dogs must show courage and aggression when confronting potentially dangerous suspects. Controlled aggressive drive supports their protective role for police officers and public safety.

Perceived Behavior Differences

There is a common assumption that female dogs are more submissive and less aggressive than male dogs.[1] This perception likely stems from outdated gender stereotypes that depict females as more passive and compliant. However, modern research challenges these preconceived notions about gender differences in canine behavior.

Some people believe female dogs are easier to train and control due to assumptions that females are inherently more obedient. But studies show there are minimal psychological differences between male and female dogs.[1] Both genders have the capacity to succeed in police work with proper training and handling.

Real Behavior Differences

Research has shown some tendencies in behavioral differences between male and female dogs. According to Pedigree, male dogs tend to be more dominant, territorial, playful, and easily distracted than females. Females tend to be more attentive, obedient, and less aggressive.

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior analyzed the behavior of male and female dogs in response to various stimuli. It found that male dogs showed more motor activity, excitability, aggression and responded more fearfully to noise than females [1]. The researchers speculated this could be due to differences in hormones or asymmetry in the brain structure between the sexes.

Overall, while individual differences will vary, male and female dogs exhibit slightly different tendencies in their energy levels, excitability, aggressiveness, protectiveness and attentiveness. However, both can make excellent working dogs with proper socialization and training.

Training and Performance

Studies show clear differences in the trainability and performance of male versus female police dogs. According to research by Fattah (2020), intact male German Shepherds significantly outperformed spayed females during narcotics detection tests. The male dogs demonstrated higher obedience, environmental stability, and search performance.

Additional research by Brady et al. (2018) examined over 1,000 police dogs in the UK and found male dogs had a much higher long-term success rate in working roles compared to females. On critical performance metrics including energy, drive, confidence, and general work interest, males received significantly higher behavioral test scores.

These studies indicate the current preference for male police dogs is grounded in measurable performance differences during training and on active duty. Males demonstrate higher trainability, task drive, environmental stability, and successful completion of working roles.

Physical Demands

One significant challenge that arises with using female police dogs relates to their heat cycles. Female dogs typically go into heat twice per year and each cycle lasts around 3 weeks [1]. This presents difficulties for demanding police work, as female dogs’ behavior and focus are impacted during their heat cycles. Police dogs need to maintain absolute focus and control during crucial missions like tracking and apprehending suspects. Their heat cycles can be distracting and reduce their working capacity [2].

Given the importance of police dogs being ready to work at all times, many K9 units avoid the complications of female heat cycles by only using male dogs. Male dogs do not go through hormonal fluctuations and are not impacted by reproductive cycles. This allows them to remain consistently focused and capable of physically demanding police tasks. Though female dogs have the same working potential, their periodic cycles make males better suited for the rigorous and urgent demands of police work.

Breeding Concerns

Female police dogs are infrequently bred due to the demands of the job and desire for uninterrupted service. The breeding process can lead to gaps in a female dog’s availability and career (https://www.policemag.com/training/article/15347912/k-9-training-challenges). Additionally, pregnancy and whelping can negatively impact a female dog’s health and performance long-term.

Instead, most police dogs are neutered males. Neutering provides health benefits and minimizes undesirable behaviors that can impact working ability and training. It also avoids testosterone-related aggression issues. According to one source, over 90% of police dogs in the United States are spayed or neutered (https://sentientmedia.org/police-dogs-a-necessity-or-a-disservice/). Neutered males are simply better suited to meet the intensive physical and behavioral needs of police work.

Perpetuating Gender Stereotypes

Some critics point out that the police practice of primarily using male dogs in service roles perpetuates damaging gender stereotypes. The assumption that female dogs cannot perform police work as well as males reflects outdated, biased thinking about gender differences and capabilities. By largely avoiding the use of capable female police dogs, law enforcement agencies may inadvertently send the message that certain important jobs are better suited for men.

This criticism holds that police K-9 units should make efforts to combat these ingrained gender biases by actively recruiting, training, and utilizing more female dogs. Rather than making generalizations about a dog’s abilities based on gender, agencies should judge each dog’s potential on a case-by-case basis. Proactively including female police dogs, when they meet performance standards, can set an example of judging individuals based on merit – not preconceived gender notions.

The Future

There has been a slow but steady shift in attitudes toward allowing more female police dogs to serve in K9 units. As outdated gender stereotypes are challenged, some police departments have begun considering the abilities of each individual dog, rather than excluding females as a policy.

Advocates argue that females can perform police duties just as well as males when properly trained. However, lingering perceptions that female dogs are inherently inferior for police work remain obstacles. Some claim that female dogs are too emotional, distractible, or physically weaker than males without concrete evidence to support these assumptions.

To increase the number of high-performing female police dogs, departments may need to adjust breeding practices and training protocols designed primarily for males. With more opportunities, certain exceptional female dogs could demonstrate their capabilities and gradually reduce lingering bias.

As society reexamines gender equality, the contributions of female police dogs should be judged on merit rather than outdated preconceptions. Their increased inclusion could strengthen police K9 units and demonstrate that both genders deserve equal opportunities to serve.

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