The Toronto Police Dog Services was formed in 1989. At present, the unit consists of 21 handlers and 31 dogs. Many teams are comprised of one handler and one General Purpose Police Dog, but many handlers also have a second police dog specializing in Search and Rescue or detection of Narcotics, Firearms, Explosives or Cadavers. Every handler is responsible for the care and maintenance of their canine partner. The dog not only works with the officer but becomes part of the officer's family, living with them in off hours.
Each dog has been chosen for its good health, temperament and training ability. Once selected, the dog is assigned to a handler who must also meet certain requirements. All police dogs are purchased after testing and are usually between the ages of one to two years. The officer must be a First Class Constable, have a good work ethic, and pass a rigorous physical test. Both the General Purpose handler and the dog form a team and embark on a 15-week training course. During this period, the dogs and handlers are taught Obedience, Agility, Tracking, Property/Evidence Searches, Area Searches, Building Searches, Handler Protection, and Criminal Apprehension.
The Service presently uses German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois for General Purpose Police Dogs and currently use Springer Spaniel, Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retriever breeds for the detection of narcotics, firearms, ammunition, and explosives.
When the Police Dog Team graduates, they are assigned to general patrol work and respond to a variety of calls, such as lost or wanted persons, searches for stolen property or evidence, break and enters into stores or factories, or any other situation where a suspect has fled or may flee from the police or a crime scene.
Police Dog Services has been responsible for arrests of persons trying to evade police as well as locate property, firearms, drugs and other crucial pieces of evidence leading to criminal charges and arrests.