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Putting a Good Bite Into K-9 Deployment During SWAT Operations

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 23 Issue: 4 Dated: April 1999 Pages: 20-22-26
B Smith
Date Published
6 pages
This article first discusses why and how dogs can be an effective tool in SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) operations and then addresses the selection of a SWAT dog and handler, along with the training required.
The basic drives in a dog that are most important in SWAT operations are the "defense" drive, which involves fighting to defend territory and protect what the dog values, and the "prey" drive, which is the drive to hunt/search for a suspect. A good patrol/SWAT dog should have a proper balance of prey and defense drives, with the ideal balance being 80 percent prey and 20 percent defense. In addition to these two drives, the dog's senses of smell, eyesight, and hearing make it a valuable tool. A SWAT dog handler should not only have experience with dogs but also understand and work well with them; the ability to control a police service dog is particularly important. A handler should be sent to SWAT school prior to being deployed with the team. Desirable traits in a SWAT dog are confidence, the ability to function effectively in an environment of loud sounds, and prior experience in working as a patrol dog. Police dogs can be used with SWAT teams to perform arrests; clear attics; and conduct searches for suspects under a house, in tunnels, crawl spaces, thick shrubs, bushes, stairwells, buildings, open areas, and in a gas environment. This article also discusses aspects of training and procedures for using dogs in arrests, deployment, entry, outside searches, locating a suspect out of sight, and procedures when a police service dog has located and is biting a suspect out of the sight of any SWAT team member.