The Virginia State Police Canine (K-9) Program began in 1961 with five patrol canine teams. Since then, the program has expanded to seven Bloodhound Teams, twenty Explosive/Weapons Detection Canine Teams, sixteen Narcotic Detection Canine Teams, and thirteen Patrol Canine Teams. In 2020, Department canine teams responded to 1,789 calls for service throughout the Commonwealth.
Department canine teams are assigned throughout the state to assist Department personnel and Law Enforcement agencies in the performance of their duties. Canine teams attend thirteen weeks of training at one of the Department’s two canine training facilities. Once training is complete, the canine lives with his/her handler and works with them in their day-to-day activities. The Department’s canine program provides canine Basic Schools and three days of monthly in-service training for the Department’s 56 canine teams, as well as teams from 20 additional state and local law enforcement agencies.
The Department’s seven bloodhound teams respond to calls to search for lost individuals and fleeing criminals. Utilizing their keen sense of smell, they lead tracking teams through a wide range of environments and terrain. Our bloodhound teams have been responsible for locating missing persons, including children, assisting in criminal investigations, and apprehending numerous criminal suspects.
Explosive/Weapons Detection Canine Teams and Accelerant Canine Teams
Explosive/Weapons detection canine teams conduct bomb threat response, security sweeps for special events, dignitary sweeps, and shooting investigations. They are actively involved in Presidential visits, college football games, concerts and other entertainment events, as well as local and state festivals. These behind-the-scenes heroes work above and beyond to ensure the protection of people and property by detecting threats in time for safe disposal.
Narcotic Detection Canine Teams
Assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations under the Counterterrorism and Criminal Interdiction Unit, narcotic detection canine teams are responsible for the interdiction of narcotics and other illegal contraband coming into the Commonwealth. These specialized canine teams assist localities in combating crime in drug-prone areas and conduct sweeps for narcotics in schools and at parcel handling companies.
Patrol Canine Teams
Covering a variety of law enforcement tasks, patrol canine teams are trained to track criminal suspects, search for people hiding in buildings, locate discarded items connected to a crime, protect their handlers, and apprehend criminal suspects posing a danger to law enforcement and civilian personnel. They routinely assist with Tactical Team operations, Tactical Field Force assignments, and searches for suspects who have fled a crime scene.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you only use German Shepherds?
German Shepherds are just one of the many breeds we use. We also use Belgian Malinois, Labradors and other retrievers, Dutch Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, Bloodhounds, and sometimes mixed breeds.
Where do you get your dogs?
Most of the canines are purchased through vendors who import dogs from overseas. We also work with rescue groups and local animal shelters when looking for canines. Some of our canines have been donated to the Department by Virginia residents.
How long does it take to train a dog?
Our canines go through 13 weeks of training with their handlers. After that, they complete an additional 24 hours or more of training each month.
What happens when a canine retires?
In most cases when a canine retires they are adopted by their handler and get to enjoy relaxing and becoming a part of the canine handler’s family.