What is a Dog to do?
November 5, 2007 2:04 AM   Subscribe

What happens to working dogs like those used by the police or the Quarantine service when they retire? How do they cope in the civilian world? How do their handlers feel?
posted by dantodd to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A guy I know has a couple of ex-police dogs. They behave just like normal dogs in the house/garden, but he has to warn people not to stroke them etc. when he's out and about with them. They seem to think that when he's walking them, they must be on guard.
posted by Solomon at 2:10 AM on November 5, 2007

Think they retire to their "handler."
posted by thomcatspike at 2:12 AM on November 5, 2007

thomcatspike is right. For the most part, they are almost always offered up to the handler first. If rejected by the handler, they are generally put up for adoption.

Looks like you can even adopt a US Military Service Dog, if you really wanted to.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 2:36 AM on November 5, 2007

Best answer: I used to work in Macy's Department Stores corporate offices (as a buyer, not a dog handler), above the Herald Square store in Manhattan. As the store is incredibly large (about 10 floors of retail space), they at one point had a problem with either a) homeless people hiding in the store for a warm place to sleep at night, b) would-be thieves hiding in the store waiting to plunder and then hopefully break their way out of the store after hours, or c) both.

So, naturally, they built a dog kennel on the roof. They keep about 4-5 retired police dogs (all german shepherds) up there and use them nightly for patrolling the store, after hours. I had more than a couple late nights in the office when most of the lights were out and people gone home, and I had to remind myself again and again - "they don't patrol the office floors, dummy."

I once ran into a guy on the service elevator taking a cart with bags of dog food on it up to the roof, and, being a dog lover, I started chatting him up. Turns out that his is a pretty lonely job up there on the roof, just him and the dogs, and he was more than happy to tell me all about them and invite me up for a visit.

Every once in a while I'd be driving by the store on the weekend, usually on the 35th street side, and I would see one or two of the dogs out there on the street with a handler, in the middle of the day. I'm not sure if they were using them to give the appearance of security for the sake of deterrence, or perhaps to chase down run-away shop lifters, or just giving the dogs a change of scenery.

So, that's one place some of them retire to.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:34 AM on November 5, 2007 [48 favorites]

Best answer: A friend tells me that only a minority of the dogs used by Customs are adopted by former handlers. You have to remember that these are professional dogs: if an officer leaves for other duties the dog switches to another handler rather than wasting its training; and a handler may work with several dogs over a few years. It's not a 'one man, one dog' kind of thing at all.

More usually dogs are adopted by other people on retirement.

The dogs are actually are of several different kinds and play different roles. The passive ones, who sit by the handler and merely indicate when someone dodgy goes past, may adapt well to civilian life, but the active ones, who go looking for stuff, may have a more difficult transition. These dogs have to be energetic, curious and undeterred by people who try to stop them getting into things. Sometimes they were naughty, 'problem' dogs before recruitment: these same qualities make them good investigative dogs but not so great on obedience, however well trained.
posted by Phanx at 6:41 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

My wife used to work for the Vet that handled Veterinary Care for the State Police K9 Unit. The handlers were incredibly devoted to their dogs, and it definitely was a "one man, one dog" situation. While she was there, all the dogs that were retired were taken in by their handlers (it was only a couple, though).
posted by Rock Steady at 7:40 AM on November 5, 2007

I did a story on k9 units on the local university police force. Most of them live with their handlers, and so retire right to that. But there were also a couple of ex-cops who had big lots who adopted a bunch of the surplus dogs, so there were, like, 10-15 of them roaming around on a big farm.

(Now, in looking back at the story, it seems more what you tell a child when you've had the dog put down).
posted by klangklangston at 11:22 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a lot of working dog rescue organizations that do placement to people interested in giving these dogs homes.
posted by phearlez at 12:13 PM on November 5, 2007

“...they don't patrol the office floors, dummy.”

Ooh, thanks for the helpful bit of information.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:58 PM on November 5, 2007

Menken's Department Store also has dogs on the roof. I assume the dogs are fictional, as is Menken's (AMC's Mad Men)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:36 AM on November 6, 2007

Best answer: So, naturally, they built a dog kennel on the roof.

Having lived in NYC I don't find this all that extraordinary -- if you have no yard, outside is either up on the roof or out on the street!

Anyway, here it is, I think -- what looks like a hurricane-fence enclosure surrounded by an apparent sandy area on top of the roof, probably a training or exercise ground. It overlooks the corner of 34th & 7th. Here it is on Live.com (hover over the label, hit Zoom to street, then hit Bird's Eye -- but if you come down vertically the pin is in the wrong place).

I'm not sure if they were using them to give the appearance of security for the sake of deterrence,

This is 90% of security, public or private.

As for retirement policy, yeah, there seem to be organizations that make dogs and humans partners for life, and others that see the dogs as a trained commodity to reassign as needed. Under a federal law, the military generally keeps its dogs in service, even as most troops do tours limited to a few years at most. Last year, they made one exception after a female airman wanted to adopt her K-9 partner after she was severely wounded in an IED hit. Amended law.

Also, in Googling, I found this neat program: Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that uses prison inmates to train service dogs, and just looks like one of those fantastically rare win-win-win situations.
posted by dhartung at 1:35 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Puppies Behind Bars is the bestest organization ever. I've got several friends involved. If it hasn't been on the front page, I may do a post.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:23 PM on November 7, 2007

I live down the street from a K9 police officer, who takes the dog, a German Shepherd, home with him every day. On the weekends, I often see the dog playing in the yard with his kids. Clearly, it's able to make a separation.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:23 PM on November 7, 2007

I'm surprised I missed this! This is a sweet enough story that it's worth telling a few months late, though.

Seeing-eye dogs are raised and trained by foster families before they're given to their blind owners. When these dogs can no longer work, they can sometimes be kept by their owners, but usually they'll go on to get another guide dog and it wouldn't be possible to keep both. In the kennel I know about, at least, the retiring dogs are offered first to the families who fostered them as puppies.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:52 PM on January 29, 2008

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