Can a Golden Retriever Be a Police Dog? (Explained!)

Police or law enforcement have been using dogs since the 15th century. Countries and nations around the world use K-9 units for various departments and agencies such as police, border patrol, anti-narcotics, airport security, etc. But can a Golden Retriever be a police dog?

Golden Retrievers can be used as police dogs in some capacities. A goldens keen sense of smell can be utilized to sniff out illicit substances or dangerous devices such as bombs, and weapons. However, due to their friendly, gentle nature, Golden Retrievers are not ideal for use in security or apprehension units.

The qualities of a Golden Retriever are best suited for hunting, tracking, searching and finding. In terms of law enforcement, its extraordinary sense of smell and friendly disposition make it an excellent breed for search and rescue, in addition to several other police applications.

Golden Retriever as a police dog.

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Below, I’ll cover the general characteristics of the breed, then dive in into what makes a Golden Retriever an ideal police dog in certain situations.

Characteristics of Golden Retrievers

A Golden Retriever’s bred ability to retrieve downed game makes it an excellent choice for hunting. Goldens also enjoy being in the water and are easy to train. This double-coated breed has a short, dense coat beneath its top layer of fur, which protects it from the weather and repels water.

Golden Retrievers love human companionship, making it a perfect choice for use as a guide dog for the disabled, and its great sense of smell and ability to thrive in the outdoors makes it an ideal search and rescue dog.

The Golden Retriever is medium-sized, friendly, confident, and kind, making it a sought after family pet and it’s widely bred throughout the world, due to its popularity.

While the American, British and Canadian regional breeds vary in size, shape, and color, the temperament of this friendly dog is the same in all breeds.

The Golden Retriever is not a one-man-dog. It will show affection to familiar people and strangers alike. Goldens are highly intelligent, calm, and obedient making it one of the most easily trainable dogs there is.

Which Dogs Make the Best Police Dog?

There are a variety of breeds that law enforcement agencies prefer. These are Belgian Malinois, German and Dutch Shepherds, Doberman, and Rottweiler.

Some law enforcement agencies even use Boxers and Akitas. But the most common police dog is the German Shepherd, followed by the Belgian Malinois. 

Police dogs are most often used to detain or chase suspects, which is why Shepherds and Malinois tend to outshine other breeds for this type of work. German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are agile, strong, and intelligent. They are highly obedient and can be utilized in various aspects of law enforcement.

On top of that, they can be quite intimidating to criminals during apprehension!

This is why Goldens are not used in this area of police work. Can you imagine being chased down by a Golden Retriever? It’s gentle and loving nature might lead it to pin you down and start licking your face! Not nearly as intimidating, is it?

Various Duties of Police Dogs

The following duties are assigned to police dogs.

Suspect Apprehension 

Suspect apprehension is the most common duty assigned to police dogs. This duty is typical for breeds like the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois. These particular breeds can be trained to detain suspects and even attack in times of danger. 

The dogs are the first to risk their lives in the line of duty. For instance, they are trained to go into combat against armed assailants. Herding breeds like Shepherds have the physical strength along with the intelligence that can perform these duties.

Victim SAR (Search and Rescue)

Police work regularly involves calls from victims who are lost, in need of assistance or rescue. These calls can be reports of kidnapping or a person gone missing.

Dogs are used to find and trace the victims or their remains. In any search and rescue case, the canine can cover large areas with their sharp sense of smell. They can search through rubble if an earthquake hits or a shattering explosion occurs to find victims and save lives.

A dog that has the ability to smell and run long distances to search for victims is what’s necessary in this type of police work. The level of precision that search and rescue dogs bring to the unit is irreplaceable, especially in emergencies.

This is an area that Golden Retrievers excel in! A golden is the ideal dog to work outdoors, track, find and help save lives. A Golden Retriever can track all day long and run for miles without tiring.

Substance & Bomb Detection

Golden Retrievers have an incredible sense of smell. They can detect and recognize a plethora of odors just by smelling. Unlike humans, the average dog has more than 200 million receptors in the nose, while humans only have six million.

Also, the part of the brain responsible for analyzing smell is greater in dogs compared to humans.

This is Bud. He’s the only Golden Retriever in the Navy’s K-9 unit. He’s used by the navy’s military police to search for illegal contraband on the base.

Law enforcement agencies involved in security and threat detection use canines regularly. The dogs are exposed to substances and taught to detect explosives at crime scenes.

They are useful for assignments at borders, airports, public events, and high-alert secure facilities. Golden Retrievers and Labradors make excellent detectors because of their sensitive noses.

Retrievers are well suited for areas with large crowds because they have a calm and playful temperament. They’re people-friendly and affectionate. They don’t cause the public to become nervous, like a Rottweiler or Doberman would, as they move through large groups of people.

What Makes a Good Police Dog?

The dog breeds used for front line policing must be strong, aggressive, and intelligent with a strong sense of smell for apprehension. Male dogs are often enlisted as security and protection dogs, while female dogs are designated as sniffers and detectors.

Male dogs are unaltered (not neutered) in order to keep the level of aggression needed for assignments high. Their training starts as soon as ten weeks after their birth.

Breeds are selected depending on the role of the dog in the unit. For example, the Giant Schnauzer is great as a street patrolling partner because of its intimidating presence and prominent stance.

Another great dog for chasing down suspects is the Doberman Pinscher. It’s fast, aggressive, masculine, and intimidating, which is ideal for police duty.

The Bloodhound is an excellent choice for tracing victims or their remains. This breed can fit into several jobs assigned in police duty because it’s loyal, obedient, and is easy to train.

The Golden Retriever as a Police Dog

When it comes to policing, Golden Retrievers are at the top of the list when it comes to search and rescue activities. Goldens are people pleasers and as such are very easy to train.

This is also why it’s a breed preferred by families, the disabled, the elderly, and hunters. Apart from that, they can pull off any assigned task as long as they are properly trained for that job.

Zane a Golden Retriever is used by the Pittsburgh Police force as a comfort and community outreach dog.

Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!

The Golden Retriever is regularly used by law enforcement agencies for bomb detection and sniffing out drugs. It’s also a good digger, so it can help in tracing and rescuing trapped people under fallen debris, snow, or dirt.

Its playful demeanor and friendly appearance should not be misinterpreted because the Golden Retriever is hardworking and devoted to its job. They can accomplish a variety of essential tasks in the line of police work, and are highly valued as police dogs because of this. 


Police dogs perform various duties. These can include protection, apprehension, search and rescue or detection.

Golden Retrievers make good police dogs because they have a fine sense of smell and abundant energy. They are often used by the police for tracking, rescue and detection in the field.

However, the Golden Retriever is not suitable for protection or guard duty because of their gentle nature and friendly appearance.

The Golden Retriever is strong and intelligent but lack the aggressiveness that’s necessary for these particular jobs. This makes it a poor choice for security, protection, and apprehension. While it may not be used for these particular duties, due to its other abilities, Golden Retrievers are still regularly used for police duty around the world.

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Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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