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What dogs do LAPD use?

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) utilizes a variety of specially trained dogs to assist in police work. Dogs have been used in law enforcement for over a century, but the types of dogs and their roles have evolved over time. Today, the LAPD relies on dogs for a diverse range of duties, from detecting drugs and explosives to tracking suspects and locating missing persons. The most common breeds used are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhounds, and Labrador Retrievers.

Detection Dogs

Detection dogs are trained to use their powerful sense of smell to locate illegal and dangerous substances. Their ability to detect even tiny traces of odors makes them invaluable for narcotics detection, bomb detection, and arson investigation.

Drug Sniffing Dogs

The LAPD employs around 50 narcotic detection dogs. These dogs are expertly trained to detect a wide variety of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and methamphetamines. Popular breeds for this role are Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers. Drug dogs may work on-leash with their police officer handlers during vehicle checkpoints, building searches, and other operations. They can also work off-leash to sniff luggage, packages, and other items.

Bomb Sniffing Dogs

Bomb detection dogs, also known as explosive detection dogs (EDDs), are a crucial counter-terrorism tool. The LAPD keeps around 30 EDDs trained at all times. Their acute sense of smell allows them to identify trace amounts of explosive materials used to make bombs, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and other incendiary weapons. When not deployed for active searches, EDDs provide a visible deterrent at high profile events, airports, and other key locations.

Arson Dogs

Arson dogs specialize in detecting minute traces of accelerants, such as gasoline or lighter fluid, that may have been used to start a fire. There are usually around 6 certified arson dogs working with the LAPD. Their skills allow investigators to differentiate natural and accidental fires from intentional arson. Popular breeds for arson work include Labrador Retrievers and Belgian Malinois.

Patrol Dogs

In addition to their detection responsibilities, dogs are also deployed on patrol to assist officers. The intimidating presence and keen senses of a police dog act as a strong deterrent to criminal activity. They also provide invaluable support in pursuits, searches, and other field operations.

Apprehension Dogs

When needed, police dogs are trained to chase down and hold suspects until officers can take them into custody. Most LAPD patrol dogs are cross-trained for apprehension work. Appropriate breeds tend to be larger and more powerful, such as German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. Apprehension dogs may be called upon to assist in high risk operations, crowd control, cases of violent resistance, and other dangerous situations.

Search and Rescue Dogs

Search and rescue (SAR) dogs are deployed to locate missing persons, accident victims, disaster survivors, and bodies. The LAPD maintains around 6 certified search and rescue dogs. Bloodhounds are exceptionally talented tracking dogs who are often utilized in SAR. Their legendary sense of smell and tireless tracking ability allows them to follow a scent trail over all kinds of terrain for miles. Other breeds with strong search aptitudes include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers.

Training LAPD Dogs

All LAPD police dogs go through intensive training before being certified for active duty. They are trained at the LAPD Police Academy by professional K9 training staff with years of experience. The department has very high standards, and only dogs with the right temperament, health, intelligence, and drive are selected. Training is customized for each dog’s specific duties, but generally includes the following elements:

  • Obedience – Basic commands and total control by handler
  • Agility – Complex obstacle courses and endurance work
  • Search skills – Finding hidden people and objects
  • Scent detection – Following airborne and ground scents of different substances
  • Apprehension – Safely chasing down and holding suspects
  • Scenario-based exercises – Realistic practice simulations

In addition to initial training, LAPD dogs and their police handlers undergo rigorous ongoing training to keep their skills sharp. Training is maintained through daily practice as well as monthly and annual refresher courses.

Summary of Main LAPD Police Dog Types

The LAPD employs approximately 100 police dogs to assist officers and detectives in a wide range of duties. The most common breeds are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhounds, and Labrador Retrievers. The main roles are summarized below:

Dog Type Key Abilities Typical Breeds
Drug Detection Dogs Smell out hidden narcotics Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers
Bomb Detection Dogs Detect explosives and incendiaries German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois
Arson Dogs Smell accelerants used in arson Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois
Patrol Dogs Tracking, apprehension, deterrence German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois
Search and Rescue Dogs Track and locate missing persons Bloodhounds, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers


Police dogs play a vital role for the LAPD. Their scent detection skills are unmatched in locating drugs, explosives, and evidence of arson. On patrol, they act as an effective deterrent while providing tracking and apprehension support. Search dogs are invaluable for finding missing persons and disaster victims. The most popular and effective breeds are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhounds, and Labrador Retrievers. After thorough training by LAPD’s professional K9 training unit, these police dogs are ready to serve and protect the people of Los Angeles.