The Calgary Police Service (CPS) Canine Unit was first established in 1960. Police canines play an integral role in apprehending individuals who have committed serious criminal offences. They are used to locate evidence of a crime such as weapons or clothing, or for locating drugs, explosives and cadavers.
A dog’s sense of smell is incredibly more refined than that of a human, and using this tool often gives police the advantage of locating people who have fled the scene of a crime and locating items related to that crime.
How many dogs are in the unit and what breeds are used?
The canine unit consists of 22 different dogs in roles from general patrol to specialty detection work. Different agencies use different breeds for police work. In Calgary we generally use the German shepherd. We have also used the Belgian malinois and the Labrador retriever. These breeds have shown the greatest ability to do police work. They have an incredible sense of smell, are tireless workers, and are generally quite social.
How often are the dogs deployed?
On average the dogs are called on approximately four times a shift. The canine unit was deployed to 8,571 calls in 2011 and directly responsible for the capture of 358 suspects.
How are the dogs trained to perform the policing duties?
The dogs are trained by CPS Canine members specifically for police duty; we do not train dogs for the general public. We utilize the dog’s natural drives and instincts and refine them to accomplish the tasks that we require of them to do police work.
After completing three years of patrol work and many hours of helping the unit train the dogs, an officer can apply for an available position. All members who meet the requirements are invited to apply to the Unit.
Once accepted they go through a week of rigorous physical and mental testing. If they pass that portion, they are invited to a board interview. The successful officer(s) then begin training in the Unit, which lasts between four - six months. Canine handler’s conduct ongoing training throughout the year and are re-evaluated annually, ensuring they maintain the standard set out by Unit.
What happens to the dogs when they are off-duty?
All canine members are required to house their dog at home. The handler must have a secure kennel for the dog and he stays with the handler on days off. The service has a kennel facility should the handlers be away on holidays. Although most of the dogs are integrated into the handlers’ family, they are never considered a pet.
What happens to the dogs when they are retired?
Once a dog is no longer fit for service, he is generally sold to the handler. If the handler is unable to keep him, he then usually goes to a family member or close family friend who is familiar with the dog. We do not sell our dogs to the general public.
What happens to the dogs if they are killed while on duty?
If a dog is killed in the line of duty he is treated like a fallen officer. Canine members from across Canada and some of the States, send representatives to these memorials. The canine would then be, "Honored" as part of the Canadian Police Canine Memorial, located in Innisfail, Alberta at the R.C.M.P. training center.
Do you visit schools or other events to showcase your skills?
We occasionally attend functions to showcase the dogs. To see if your request is appropriate and we have the manpower to facilitate an event, contact our Public Affairs Unit.