How to buy police K-9 equipment

Use this guide to prepare for a purchase of police K-9 equipment

The use of K-9 for law enforcement purposes has officially been around since the 1850s, but domestic dogs have been used in a variety of security capacities from deterrent to protector far predating that era.

With the first dogs being used in European countries for law enforcement, several European countries are now responsible for producing a majority of the dogs used for law enforcement purposes today in the United States. That covers the dogs, but what about the equipment used to train and maintain these police K-9 counterparts in their daily tasks?

Why do we need police specific K-9 equipment? What avenues are available to a department for purchasing equipment from the individual K-9 and handler to the whole unit? This and more answered in the following exciting paragraphs.

With the mentality of trying to do more with less, police K-9 teams are being used more widely now than ever before, as a K-9 team can accomplish more than an individual officer. A varying set of tasks meet the K-9 teams with most being broken down into detection or scent work, patrol or aggression control, and violence deterrence at public demonstrations. With this need for dogs comes a need for the proper equipment for training and utilization. Just like an officer who learns a task, K-9 training is a perishable skill. A dog is a conditioned-response animal that has to be taught a specific skill set to be successful on the street. Therein lays the need for specific police K-9 equipment

Below are listed some key points in what to look for when researching and obtaining K-9 equipment.

1. Ascertain what the end use(s) of the team will be

If your K-9 team is a dual-purpose team with tracking capabilities, they will need to focus on bite work, detection, as well as tracking. If it’s a single-purpose narcotics team, then the equipment list is greatly reduced. Make sure before heading down the path of purchasing equipment that you know what is needed.

2. Consult with the Police K-9 trainer

A frustrating point from a trainer and handler standpoint is not having the right equipment to make a dog reliable on the street. Getting a K-9 to find drugs or explosives, to track and protect the handler is harder than the average supervisor would imagine. The list of stories of K-9s that failed to perform is long and well documented. Usually, a lack of proper training or utilization is to blame.

One factor of poor training is improper/lack of equipment. If a little time is spent with the department trainer or the vendor who is selling the K-9, much money can be saved, through making a better initial purchase. Your trainer should be a subject matter expert in this area or you should find a new trainer. On that same note, don’t expect a green handler to know what he needs to perform his mission before the K-9 officer gets to K-9 school.

3. Consider available avenues for purchasing equipment

Once you have decided to purchase equipment it is important to consider your source for procurement. There are many options for equipment requisition for individual officers all the way up to entire unit or department purchases. Whether you are a local law enforcement organization or a large state or federal agency there are many contractual vehicles available for purchasing K-9 Equipment.

Individual companies like Ray Allen are available to source anything from vehicle inserts to collapsible water bowls. In finding a K-9 vendor, you should look for high-quality products, a good guarantee, and a competitive price when comparing comparable items with other vendors. For example, a collar that is single-layered leather, poorly made, will not hold up as well as one that is stitched and double-layered, with good hardware. Just think of comparing apples to apples.

4. Questions to ask before purchasing police K-9 products 

Before welcoming a K-9 vendor representative to your station or visiting with a rep at a tradeshow make sure you are able to answer these questions:  

  • What is the purpose of the K-9?
  • What environment will the K-9 be utilized in?
  • What did the trainer recommend for equipment?
  • Where should we procure equipment?
  • How much and what do we need?
  • What type of vehicle will be allotted for the K-9 team?

Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing Police K-9 equipment or police K-9 training equipment? Please leave a comment below or email with your feedback.

PoliceOne K-9 Contributor Jerry Bradshaw contributed to this article.

This article, originally published July 21, 2009, has been updated

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