Police Dog Section

Police dog jumping over hurdles during training.

Patrol dog teams (previously known as general purpose teams) operate in all dog sections and police districts and make up 90 percent of capability. The rest of police dog capability are detector dog teams that are based in the larger centres and provide inter-district support.

Police dogs respond to more than 30,000 incidents each year. All police dog handlers are officers with about five years policing experience behind them before they join the Dog Unit.

Police dogs

All patrol dogs are German Shepherds and are supplied by the police dog breeding programme that is based at the Dog Training Centre near Wellington.

Patrol dogs are mainly used to track and search for people.  Many of them are also trained for:

  • search and rescue work
  • victim recovery
  • deployment with the Armed Offender Squad
  • narcotic detection work

Detector dogs include a variety of breeds including German Shepherds, Labradors, Springer Spaniels and cross breeds.  Detector dog teams are trained to detect narcotics, firearms, currency and explosives.

Dog training

Police dog sitting with lead and dog handler in background.

All police dogs are trained at the Police Dog Training Centre at Trentham, Upper Hutt, near Wellington. The training of a patrol dog is based on a six-stage development and qualification process that starts when the dogs are puppies and ends when they graduate at 18 months of age. Dogs live at home with their handlers. 

The quality of the training provided by the Dog Training Centre is recognised abroad as well as in New Zealand. Help has been provided to set up dog sections in a number of Australian states and training has been given to several Pacific countries.

Police work together with partner agencies to train detector dogs at the Dog Training Centre for the Department of Corrections, Aviation Security Service and the New Zealand Defence Force.

The New Zealand Police Dog Charitable Trust

This charity receives donations and bequests to help the acquisition and training of dogs and to improve the bloodlines of police dogs.

Make a donation

You can make a donation at any Westpac Branch to:

The New Zealand Police Dog Charitable Trust
Westpac Wellington
Account number 030251 0040111 00

Contact the Trust

E dogtrust@police.govt.nz

Or write to:

The New Zealand Police Dog Charitable Trust
P.O.Box 47076 
Upper Hutt 

Dog safety

The safety and well-being of police dogs is very important and this is reflected in a very low number of serious injuries our dogs sustain when compared to the very high number of incidents they are involved in. Over 80 percent of patrol dogs are involved in tracking, often long distances and in all weather conditions, so injuries can happen when least expected.

A dog’s best defence is its natural speed, agility and strength, accompanied by safe deployment practice by its handler. This year Police has introduced the new Sabre Tactical MAKO multi purpose harness for patrol dogs. The layered polymer panels shield vital organs from slashing and stabbing, giving dogs the same level of protection as the handler’s SRBA. The NZ designed and made harness weighs just over one kilogram, can be worn throughout the shift, dries quickly and doesn’t impair mobility or speed.   

Fostering and adopting police dogs

Police puppy looking at the camera.

You may be able to foster a police puppy/dog for up to a year, on a short term basis to provide a temporary home, or as a long-term foster home for breeding females (Wellington region), or you may adopt a dog that has been withdrawn from the programme. 

All puppies go into foster homes at eight weeks old. Police monitor their progress and may withdraw a puppy from the programme at any time for physical or behavioural reasons, but the typical foster period is 7-12 months. Breeding females stay in a foster home much longer, around five-six years.  There are times when police need to foster dogs for a short term from 1 -4 months.

Potential puppy foster parents go through a formal application process including a police check. Other requirements include:

  • a securely fenced area to contain the dog on your property
  • ability to provide the appropriate level of supervision and care for the puppy/dog.

An alternative to fostering a puppy is to permanently adopt a puppy or young dog that did not complete the police training programme. These dogs may be sold for a fee.

Dogs from the breeding programme must be spayed or neutered at the new owner's expense before they can be rehomed. 

Police dogs retire at around eight years old and usually stay with handlers or other police staff.

To find out about fostering a puppy or adopting a dog please contact the dog section through your local police station.