What are service dogs used for?

Opinion on the training of service dogs in the Leipzig Police Department

On January 8, 2021, an online medium reported on a video in which a service dog in training was beaten several times by police officers because it no longer responded to the commands of the service dog handler after being bitten into the protective clothing. The images shown and statements made by the accompanying officers are not only disturbing to dog lovers and therefore have consequences. After gaining knowledge of the situation, the Leipzig Police Department initiated extensive investigation measures to clarify the situation.

The video shows service dog handlers and was recorded in July 2020 on a dog training ground in northern Saxony. On September 22, 2020, this video was anonymously received by the management of the Saxon service dog school in Naustadt, which forwarded it to the Leipzig Police Department. The following day, Police President Torsten Schultze reacted immediately, prohibited this training method in the Leipzig Police Department and initiated an official examination. In parallel to the internal review, the Leipzig Criminal Police Inspectorate started investigations and the procedure for assessing the relevance of criminal law was submitted to the Leipzig Public Prosecutor's Office on October 6, 2020. Five officers were affected. The public prosecutor's office discontinued the proceedings on January 7, 2021 because they saw no criminal relevance within the meaning of the Animal Welfare Act and handed it over to the North Saxony District Office for examination of a fine procedure.

The Leipzig Police Department states:
  • The affected dog is doing well and two weeks after this video he has successfully passed his protection dog test with the grade "very good". He is currently working as an explosives search dog and protection dog and lives in the family of the service dog handler.
  • In the training of service dogs, special attention is always paid to animal welfare. In the last five years this is the only procedure that has been carried out on suspicion of a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Service dogs are a valuable resource for the police. They support the officers in difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations. In doing so, they must be able to capture aggressive and armed perpetrators safely and without fear. Therefore, protection dogs in particular must be able to show a certain degree of aggressive behavior in an emergency and act safely in extreme situations and always remain controllable for the officers. In this respect, they differ significantly from common family dogs. Police dogs learn the commands mainly through positive reinforcement, for example through praise, so-called treats or toys. To make learning easier for the dogs, great importance is attached to a low-stress environment and the use of punishment is reduced to a necessary minimum. Basically, protection dog training differs from training in dog sports in that there are significantly higher demands on the reliability of the police service dog. The video does not reflect the regular training routine in its entirety.
  • Despite everything, the police take the issue very seriously and therefore evaluate their own training standards. For a new concept of service dogs, the experiences from other federal states are also taken into account.


Further information on the use of guard dogs in the Saxon police

What does a Schutzhund have to be able to do and what is a Schutzhund there for?

  • stand and bark / bite / push basket work
  • Guard dogs must track people in buildings and grounds
  • Find perpetrators (passive perpetrators by barking and attacking perpetrators by defense)
  • Find fugitive perpetrators
  • Defend dog handlers (or deployed police forces)
  • Protect objects and terrain
  • support in the context of gatherings or football games

What breed are protection dogs as a rule?

The majority are German Shepherds and Malinois. There are also some Herder and currently a giant schnauzer and a rottweiler.

How many guard dogs do the police in Saxony have and what is the relationship with all service dogs?

In principle, all service dogs at the police headquarters are dual trained (protection service and specialization), a few exceptions are possible. Around 120 dogs are used in the entire Saxon police force.