The Garda Dog Unit celebrated 50 years in existence in 2010. Over the years the unit has grown and become an integral part of policing. The main Dog Support Unit is based at Kilmainham Garda Station Dublin and there is another dog unit in the Southern Region.
The Garda dogs assist in searches for suspects of crimes and for evidence which may have been discarded. The dogs are also trained to work in serious public order disturbances and they assist in the execution of warrants. Most of the Garda dogs are "detector" dogs. These dogs are trained to locate cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and heroin. The remaining dogs are "cadaver" dogs and help to recover missing persons on land and from water.
Potential Garda dogs are assessed for 3 to 4 weeks and if suitable they start the training programme at the Dog Unit. It can take at least 8 weeks to train a dog to search for drugs and explosives, and up to 14 weeks to train for patrols and to search for cadavers. After the training is completed the dog and its handler start operational duty immediately, although on-going training is continued on a very regular basis. Garda dogs are also familiarised with working alongside personnel in the Garda Mounted Support Unit, Garda Air Support Unit and Garda Water Support Unit. The dogs live in their handler’s home, so they build a relationship with their handler, although they understand the difference between work and off duty.
Types of Dogs and Specialities:
General Purpose - German Shepherd
German Shepherds are used in a wide variety of policing tasks including tracking humans, identifying property and evidence, chase and detain, protection of handler and public order control.
Drug Detection - Labrador or English Springer Spaniel
These dogs are trained to detect heroin, cocaine, cannabis and other drugs in outdoor or indoor situations.
Victim Recovery/Blood Detection - Labrador or English Springer Spaniel
Labradors and English Springer Spaniels specialise in the detection of bodies buried in the ground. Their extraordinary sense of smell enables them to pick up the scent of human decomposition, human blood and bodily fluids.
Firearms Recovery - Labrador or Springer Spaniel
These dogs are trained in the recovery of firearms.
Explosive Detection - Labrador or English Springer Spaniel
These dogs concentrate on the detection of explosives.
Conflict Resolution - Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois are used in situations where less lethal force is one of the options to secure a person in a very serious situation.
Dogs can do what no human or machine can, by virtue of their keen sense of smell. Many discoveries of people, drugs and explosives would be impossible without their assistance.