The Vancouver Police Dog Squad has 18 handler / dog teams working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, comprised of 16 constables and two sergeants. The teams are trained in criminal apprehension, as well as narcotics, firearms and explosives detection.
The VPD is the oldest municipal police service dog (PSD) unit in Canada and the second largest behind the Toronto Police Service.
The Vancouver Police dogs have earned great respect and admiration from the public for the hundreds of captures they make every year.
The Dog Squad 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
The VPD Dog Squad also assists outside municipalities that require the use of a police dog.
Teams are trained to deploy with the Emergency Response Team, the Public Order Unit (formerly called the Crowd Control Unit) and the Marine Unit. While on duty, the teams use SUV-style police vehicles, which are outfitted with a kennel, air conditioning, and a heat alarm to notify the handler if the interior temperature rises above safe levels. The safety and well being of Section's working dogs is paramount.
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.
Once the dogs reach eight to ten years of age, they are retired to their handler.
Selection & Training
Out of 100 dogs offered for a career in police work, only four or five will be accepted. The dogs chosen, like their handlers, must excel in many fields. The prospective police dog must be obedient, intelligent, eager to please, and trustworthy. The dog must be able to fetch, be physically sound and medically fit.
The Dog Squad attempts to place dogs in their handler's home at an early age, well before the start of training. The close handler / dog bond is critical to success in the field and in providing handler expertise for criminal trials.
To promote socialization for the dog and community awareness, dog teams are expected to participate in VPD's public relations programs, visiting schools, hospitals and community groups.
The Vancouver Police Dog Squad is well known internationally and is considered by many to be one the finest dog squads to be found anywhere.
The Vancouver Police Dog Squad has been fully operational since 1959. Early on, Deputy Chief Constable Gordon R. Ambrose reported that through trial and error the Department found that male German Shepherds made the best police dogs. According to DCC Ambrose:
"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 Dog Squad Appearance on Kids' Show "Zig Zag" in 1982
This year's VPD Dog Squad calendar has again sold out. This popular calendar is sold in support of the Candy Anfield Memorial Foundation, which honours Vancouver Police officer Candy Anfield, who lost a valiant struggle with cancer in 2004.