Originating in 1957, the Vancouver Police Canine Unit is the oldest municipal police dog unit in Canada.
The Canine Unit is comprised of 15 dog teams working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The dogs are trained in variety of disciplines such as tracking, criminal apprehension, evidence recovery, narcotics, firearms and explosives detection. The Unit routinely responds to over 10,000 calls for service per year in the city of Vancouver, and to Lower Mainland police agencies that require the services of a police dog and a police officer.
Eight Vancouver Police dogs have died in the line of duty. Their dedication to the people of Vancouver are forever memorialized with their names etched on a granite base beneath a life-size bronzed police dog situated at the front of the VPD police dog kennels. The memorial was graciously donated by Mrs. Darlene Poole in memory of her late husband, Jack, and his love of dogs.
Video: Vancouver Police Department Canine Unit
VPD dog teams are trained to deploy with the Emergency Response Team (ERT), the Public Safety Unit (PSU) and the Marine Unit. All dogs are also provided with custom fitted ballistic vests, as the safety and well-being of the dog is paramount. While on duty, the dog teams drive specially designed SUVs equipped with an air-conditioned kennel and heat alarm that will sound should the interior temperature rise above safe levels.
The Canine Unit is highly mobile, with the primary purpose of attending scenes of crimes that are in progress or that have just occurred, e.g.:
break and enters
theft from autos
Handlers take their dogs home to kennels provided by the City, and are responsible for them at all times. Dogs are active members of the police department as long as they are able to perform the duties required of them, or until their handler is transferred or promoted to another section.
Selection and Training
In April of 2014, Vancouver schoolchildren were asked to help name the two newest Canine Unit recruits in a “Name the Puppy” contest. Over 800 entries were submitted, which made it very difficult to choose. In the end, the names Griffin and Maverick were chosen, and they began their official training in the Spring of 2015.
Depending on the Unit’s needs, dogs arrive between seven weeks to two years of age. The dogs are chosen from select breeders in Canada, the United States and Europe, who have proven bloodlines, and have produced top working dogs for the police, military, and search and rescue.
Prospective police dogs must be social and high in drive. They are x-rayed and must be rated "excellent" in the hips, back, elbows and knees prior to entering our training program. The dogs are at least one year of age before starting the 14- to 17-week basic dog handler course. The dogs, on average, will work until they are aged 8 to 10, and will be retired to their handler thereafter.
The VPD Canine Unit is a member of the Canadian Police Canine Association (CPCA). Formed in 1978, the CPCA is a professional association, representing canine units from across Canada, promoting the sharing of ideas and training techniques.
Police canine units take turns hosting CPCA national seminars and dog trials every year. The information and training that occurs at these events ensures that the units are operating effectively at a national level.
The VPD Canine Unit routinely attends the annual national CPCA police dog trials, which tests dog teams from across Canada in every discipline they are trained in, such as tracking, criminal apprehension, building search, compound search, evidence recovery, obedience, agility, and narcotics. Dog teams from the VPD Canine Unit routinely place in the top five in all categories.
2001 CPCA National Trials, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Cst. Glenn Thordarson and Police Service Dog Rollie - 1st Place Narcotic Detection
2006 CPCA National Trials, Saanich, B.C.
Cst. Bill Clarke and Police Service Dog Storm - 1st Place Tracking
2007 CPCA National Trials, Edmonton, Alberta
Cst. Ray Wong and Police Service Dog Bear - 1st Place Overall, 1st Place Compound Search and 1st Place Team Event
Cst. Richard Wong and Police Service Dog Knight - 1st Place Obedience and 1st Place Agility
2008 CPCA National Trails, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Cst. Ray Wong and Police Service Dog Bear - 2nd Place Overall
Cst. Richard Hatchman and Police Service Dog Des - 1st Place Narcotic Detection
The Vancouver Police Canine Unit has been fully operational since 1957. Early on, Deputy Chief Constable Gordon R. Ambrose was quoted as saying:
"During the initial stages of the program an attempt was made, for reasons of economy, to utilize multi-handlers and this was found to be unsound and not practical. This was discarded for the present method of having one dog exclusively handled and possessed by the one handler. The results are a matter of record, and are indeed gratifying."
Chief Constable George Archer also wrote about the results. In 1959, he pronounced the program a success and reported to the mayor that:
"It is my considered opinion, based on our experience to date, that the four dogs now on duty are each equal to a second police constable and, in some instances, better. It is my intention to recommend to the Board of Police Commissioners an increase in our dog strength and consideration to the employment of a professional dog trainer."
Video: VPD Canine Unit Appearance on Kids' Show "Zig Zag" in 1982
For all the latest news and information on the VPD Canine Unit, follow @VPDCanine on Twitter.
Watch this profile of VPD dog handler Matt Mageau and his PSD Justice.
The VPD Dog calendars for 2016 have now sold out.
The calendars are done in support of the Candy Anfield Memorial Foundation, which honours Vancouver Police officer Candy Anfield, who lost a valiant struggle with cancer in 2004.