Why Are Police Dogs Taught German? Reasons Explained

When we think of police dogs, we often picture highly trained and obedient canines that work tirelessly alongside law enforcement officers to maintain public safety. 

These remarkable dogs undergo rigorous training, including learning a variety of commands to apprehend suspects, locate drugs, and even defuse potentially dangerous situations. What might come as a surprise is that many police dogs are taught commands in German. 

This linguistic choice has raised questions among the general public: Why German? In this article, we will delve into the historical, practical, and psychological reasons behind teaching police dogs commands in German, and explore how this unique approach enhances the effectiveness of K-9 units.

Historical Origins

The practice of training police dogs using German commands can be traced back to the early 20th century. The roots of this choice lie in Germany’s rich history of breeding and training working dogs, particularly for police and military purposes. 

In the late 1800s, Max von Stephanitz established the German Shepherd breed, with an emphasis on intelligence, strength, and loyalty. These characteristics made German Shepherds ideal candidates for police work, and their popularity spread internationally.

With the increasing use of German Shepherds in law enforcement, the need for standardized commands arose. German became the go-to language due to its prevalence in the breed’s country of origin and its perceived neutrality. 

During World War I, German Shepherds served in various capacities, solidifying their reputation as versatile working dogs. After the war, police departments worldwide started adopting German Shepherds for K-9 units, cementing the practice of using German commands. 

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Practical Considerations

The practical reasons behind teaching police dogs commands in German are multifaceted. Firstly, using a language unfamiliar to the suspects being pursued gives officers an advantage. Criminals may not understand the commands, reducing the likelihood of them interfering with the dog’s instructions. 

Additionally, German words tend to have distinct syllables and sounds, which can help prevent confusion or misinterpretation during high-stress situations. Furthermore, German commands are concise and consistent. A single German word can convey complex instructions, saving valuable time during critical operations. 

Commands like “Platz” (pronounced “plats”), meaning “down,” and “Hier” (pronounced “hee-er”), meaning “here,” are examples of succinct yet effective instructions that contribute to the efficiency of K-9 units.

Psychological Impact

Apart from practical considerations, the psychological aspect plays a crucial role in why police dogs are taught German commands. Dogs are highly sensitive to vocal cues, tone, and body language. 

Teaching them commands in a foreign language creates a clear distinction between their work environment and their everyday surroundings. This separation helps the dogs associate German commands exclusively with their duties, fostering heightened focus and responsiveness when on duty.

Additionally, using a foreign language minimizes the chances of confusion or crossed signals. Dogs might respond to unintentional cues from officers if they were given commands in a language commonly used in non-work settings. 

By using German, officers can maintain better control over their K-9 partners, ensuring precise execution of commands even in chaotic situations.

Continued Evolution

While German remains a popular choice for police dog commands, the practice has evolved over time. Police departments now use a mix of languages, including Dutch, Czech, and Hungarian, to diversify the commands and maintain an edge in training. 

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The selection of languages is often based on the background of the dogs, the preferences of the trainers, and the specific tasks the K-9 units are expected to perform.


The use of German commands in training police dogs is a tradition steeped in history and practicality. From its origins in Germany’s expertise in working dog breeding to its utility in high-stress law enforcement scenarios, teaching police dogs commands in German has proven effective in enhancing the capabilities of K-9 units. 

The choice of language goes beyond mere linguistics; it taps into the psychology of the canine mind, creating a clear distinction between work and everyday life. 

As police forces continue to adapt and innovate, the legacy of this linguistic tradition lives on, a testament to the enduring partnership between humans and their four-legged protectors.