Protecting and serving like no other, K9 police dogs both enhance police searches and help keep officers safe on the job. Get the scoop from our interview with Bay Area K9 officers.

Cute, courageous, K9 cops – we don’t call them The Fuzz for nothing. From airport sniff patrol to tracking the bad guys, these crime-fighting pups collar the toughest criminals. To find out more about Bay Area police dogs, the Woof Reporters sat down with South San Francisco station officers Marty Mahon and Chris Devan and their police dog partners, Dugan and Olympia.

Here are the facts, just the facts…

Protect & Serve

Police dogs can sniff out almost anything. Their amazingly heightened sense of smell is essential for tracking and searching in response to burglar alarms, prowler calls, crimes in progress and building and open area searches. And they can respond to a sound from 140 yards away compared to just 40 yards for human officers.

Pups in Training

To join the ranks of America’s finest, a pup must first complete a 6-month, 160-hour basic training course with his handler. A new K9 team goes to work after graduating with basic training, narcotics training, and state certification. The K9s are re-certified each year and must attend two 6-hour training sessions with their handler and trainer each week!

Working with a Partner

K9 handlers are chosen from the patrol officer ranks by the Command staff. When there’s an opening, interested officers apply and interview with a panel. Leadership, work ethic, independence, previous evaluations and the officer’s home situation are all considered. The officers live and care for the police dogs at home and may purchase their dogs upon retirement.

It’s a Dog’s Life

The South San Francisco station has five K9s among its 80 officers. All dogs in the department but one are Belgian Malinois, which are similar in looks to German Shepherds, but more agile and with fewer health problems. The K9s work with their K9 handlers at all times – 10-hour shifts, 4 to 5 days each week.

Caring for K9 Officers

The city covers all the police dogs’ care and costs, which range from $15,000 to $20,000 a dog for training, vet care, food, and supplies. The dogs are purchased from specialty breeders with absolutely no training, only the right genetics for the job.

A Job on the Force

Police dogs save time and reduce the number of officers needed for a search or to contain an area. They also deliver a more thorough search and help keep officers safe during the apprehension of dangerous criminals. Police dogs must be aggressive when necessary, yet gentle around the general public. Seeing this contrast is truly impressive – as is seeing the bond these courageous dogs share with their handler partners.

One local business is working hard to help keep the Bay Area’s brave K9 officers safer. DoodyCalls pooper-scooper service in San Mateo is raising funds to purchase bulletproof police dog vests at cost for approximately $500 each and then donating them to local police departments. The custom-fitted vests can cost from $750 up to $2000 for police departments, which prevents most police agencies from purchasing them for their dogs. So far, they’ve raised enough for 18 vests over the past year and welcome your support to lend a paw to the hard-working pups on the force.

The Scoop:

South San Francisco Police Department K-9 Unit

K9 Police Foundation – K9 Vesting Charity

To vest local police dogs, email to find departments in need in your area. Your donations can then be allocated for a specific department per your request.

Originally published January 2011; reviewed and updated July 2016.