The Saint John Police Force Canine Unit was formed in 1975. Police dogs are used at the scenes of robberies, break and enters, assaults, lost /missing persons, searching for evidence at crime scenes, drug searches, police/community presentations, search and rescue, Emergency Response Team deployments and other calls, as needed, where a dog may be helpful to assist with an investigation.
The Saint John Police Force uses German Shepherds, which are very intelligent, versatile, loyal, and adaptable under extreme conditions. The dogs are selected for training at the age of 12 to 18 months old and are trained in Saint John by officers in the Canine Unit.
The basic training course consists of 16 weeks of intense training for both the handler and the police dog. This training includes obedience, tracking, criminal apprehension work, article searching, and obstacle training (which includes climbing ladders, jumping fences, going through windows, tunnels etc.) In addition to basic training, the dogs are cross-trained in drug detection and are capable of finding a variety of illegal drugs.
Training is an ongoing commitment to maintain a high level of competency throughout the year in all types of weather and under extreme conditions. The dogs, along with their handlers, are validated twice a year to maintain a high standard and level of expertise, which is necessary in their work.
The Canine Officers also work closely with River Valley Ground Search and Rescue and are called upon often to search for missing persons. They undergo training in lost person behavior, map and compass work, wilderness survival, and other related training. The Saint John Police Force Canine Unit has been responsible for saving numerous lives over the years, locating people that have gone missing or have been lost.
The police dogs live with the dog handler and are part of his /her family. Dogs are naturally pack animals and the family becomes part of the pack. The bond between the police dog and the handler is exceptionally strong and the dog looks at the handler as being the leader of the pack (alpha).
The police dog has a keen passion as a working dog and will work tirelessly to please his handler during their career. The average age of retirement for a police dog is around seven years of age, although some dogs have been able to have a productive career past the age of ten. Upon retiring, the dogs enjoy a peaceful retirement at the home of their handler.