Should I get a retired police or army dog?
Police and army dogs are legendary for their skills and aptitude for protection work. High-profile arrests involving police dogs are always widely publicised, and British Army military working dogs have even been decorated for their bravery on the battlefield during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most commonly used breeds for military and policing work are the German Shepherd Dog, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch Herder. A combination of their recognisability and reputation could lead one to think that a retired police or army dog is the best option for a family guardian and protector, but this assumption is both incorrect and dangerous.
For the purposes of this blog, we will assume that there are three main types of protection dogs: military, policing, and family. Of these, military dogs are required to demonstrate the most aggression and highest work drive, to the point of lethality. Although generally trained to bite and restrain by the arm, it is not unheard of for military working dogs to have confirmed battlefield kills. Police dogs are not intended to use lethal force, but will nevertheless aggressively apprehend suspects in a manner which often causes lifelong injuries. In a family setting, a protection dog is primarily a deterrence against intrusions and attacks, and should only ever have to be used to bite as an absolute last resort. Accordingly, each type of dog will require very different types of training.
Although police and army dogs often calm down with age in a way which reduces their work drives, they have still been trained to bite in a very aggressive manner, and this training tends to be strongly ingrained. It is not coincidental that the most common owners of retired police and army dogs tend to be former handlers themselves, who will be extremely experienced in working with that type of dog. As most normal family owners will not have had the training required to handle such a dog, it would be very unwise for them to try to obtain one. High work drives are also hard to meet in normal family environments, and failure to do so will often lead to destructive behaviour such as excessive chewing. Such dogs are also unused to living in home environments, having generally been housed in kennels, and may not be housetrained.
A far better and safer option is to source a dedicated and specifically trained family protection dog. They will have been selected for this role based on temperamental suitability for it, specially trained to protect with a greater degree of control than police or army dogs, and exposed to home environments before going on sale. This final point is particularly important for households with children in. If in doubt about whether or not to purchase retired police or army dog, simply do not. Trained family protection dogs are far better alternatives.