How to equip K9 officers to restrain them, maintain their training and keep them safe in the line of duty
Police K9 officers are more than just dogs; they are faithful companions, best friends and, for many departments, members of the squad. Although many K9s retire to become loving pets, while on duty, they have specific duties above and beyond what you might expect from a typical house pet.
To help train them, care for them and keep them safe, K9s require specific equipment. When it comes to a police K9 equipment list, you’ll find many items that are similar to those you might buy for your pet at home but it’s important to not lose sight of a K9's unique needs.
K9s assist in patrols and investigations, help track and apprehend suspects, secure crime scenes, locate evidence, detect substances and explosives and more. To perform all of these duties safely and effectively, they require special training, care and of course, equipment.
Be sure to read The essential guide to law enforcement equipment for even more information about outfitting today's officers.
Police K9 Equipment List
K9 police equipment comes in three basic types: restraint, training and protection.
Restraints are intended to ensure control of the K9. While police K9s are extensively trained and can be expected to be exceptionally obedient, they are still animals. Even the best-trained animal will test boundaries or be enticed to disobey.
Restraints you might find on a police K9 equipment list will be of higher quality and sturdier construction than your typical pet store leash and are designed for the specific purpose that K9s are trained to fill.
Leash: Made of reinforced ballistic nylon or leather, a police K9 leash is built to lead and control large dogs. They are sold in various lengths.
Collar: A police K9 collar is typically wider and built from sturdier material than what might adorn the neck of your porch pooch. Also, unlike a typical dog collar, police K9 collars come with a sturdy, fast-releasing latch to secure them. Many police K9 collars will also have a handle attached to the collar itself for close control of the K9.
Harness: Harnesses are designed to offer greater restraint and control over the animal than a simple collar. They are particularly useful when dealing with multiple animals. Harnesses may also come in “tactical” varieties, with MOLLE attachments for loading up your K9 companion with gear or a first aid kit.
Muzzle: A muzzle is useful to help an animal control the urge to perform destructive acts with its mouth. Whether that’s biting or eating dangerous foods, a muzzle will help keep your K9 safe. They are also beneficial for easing the minds of nervous onlookers. While most K9s are extensively trained and controllable, many members of the public will have had negative interactions with large dogs and might be especially intimidated by police dogs. A muzzle will help keep their minds at ease.
While a police K9 must undergo extensive training before it can become an active member of an agency, training is also an ongoing process. You will need to reinforce the animal’s training at regular intervals, and in some instances, a K9 will need to be retrained or trained for different purposes.
The following are essential training aids for any police K9 equipment list.
Bite Sleeve: One of the roles a police K9 will often be called to fill is that of protection. Unlike a human officer, who might have a belt or vest full of tools, a police K9 has one main weapon: its bite. Bite sleeves help train a K9 on the proper use of its weapon. A human companion places their arm in the sleeve and instructs the K9 on when and where to deploy its bite and the amount of force to use. The bite sleeve protects the human companion while allowing precise control.
Bite Suit: A bite suit takes training to a completely different level. Bite suits are for use in full-body encounter training. The K9 can be trained to attack, tumble, disarm or disable a suspect. A willing human companion wears the suit and masquerades as a suspect. The bite suit allows the K9 to practice bite placement, bite force and control over the suspect without harming the human inside.
Bite Pillow: A bite pillow can be used for more directed training. A human companion holds the pillow, allowing the K9 to practice biting to develop bite force. Bite pillows can also be used for supervised play when the K9 needs to relax. These are usually constructed of tough natural fibers, leather or ballistic nylon.
Training collar: A training or prong collar is made of stainless steel and has small prongs on the inside of the collar. These are used to replicate the natural way a dog will “train” other dogs’ behavior by offering a gentle “nip” around the neck. A quality training collar will have rounded edges on the prongs themselves and pose no harm to the animal.
Scent Training Aids: Like all training, scent training must be reinforced and maintained. Scent training aids allow for frequent reinforcement of scent training with reusable tools and materials. Scent training aids, like small containers with holes or vents in them, allow trainers to hide a scented item, encouraging the K9 to train in the use of its sense of smell. They are an invaluable tool in maintaining training for cadaver dogs, trackers or detection K9s.
Police K9s are working dogs, and the work they do is often dangerous. No police K9 equipment list would be complete without items designed for the K9’s protection.
Ballistic Vest: Like their human companions, police K9s need to be protected in the line of duty. That’s where a ballistic vest comes in. Made from the same materials as ballistic vests manufactured for humans, K9 ballistic vests offer K9s protection from bladed weapons and small-caliber firearms. They are rated according to the same classification as human vests, according to the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) “level” scale, certifying protection from varying calibers of firearm ammunition. K9 ballistic vests are available in different sizes and shapes for the most common breeds of K9 officers.
Goggles: Just like goggles for human officers, K9 goggles offer eye protection for the K9. They protect against wind, particles, dust, debris or even gas.
Ear Muffs: Dogs have extremely sensitive hearing. Loud noises that may not affect us can be harmful to their hearing and anxiety-inducing. Ear protection for K9s will help protect the K9 officer’s hearing and keep them calm during helicopter rides or airline travel, on motorcycles, during firearms training, fireworks displays or any other situation where loud noises are present.
First Aid Kit: Injuries are bound to happen. When they do, ensuring you have the right tools to stop bleeding, stabilize broken bones and dress wounds while waiting for help to arrive could make the difference between life and death. A good K9 first aid kit will come with many of the same items as a first aid kit designed for humans, along with specialty items specifically to address canine anatomy and likely wounds.
For more information on how to keep officers safe (both human and K9), reach out to Axon today to learn about our Axon Officer Safety Plan (OSP). Although we do not offer some of the K9 specific equipment listed above, we provide a wide variety of solutions and Axon can tailor the OSP to your specific needs.