3rd November 2021

 West Australian K-9 Force

Mark: Sheridan Perth


History of Police Dogs in Australia

Although the British had used dogs in policing since 1888, the Belgiums were the first to institute a formal training program for police dogs in 1899 in response to a crime problem in Ghent.

Newspapers in Australia were reporting this new development in1904.


From the 19th century in Australia there were occasional examples of pet or stray dogs accompanying police on rounds, and providing assistance by their own initiative. In 1922 Victorian police decided to use pointers to accompany police on night duty, and in 1923 “dog recruits” were being trained at the Russell Street station.

The Australiasian (Melbourne), 9th December 1922 page 28.

A report in  Adelaide in 1923 stated that an attempt at using a police dog in Queensland had failed “because the education of the (dobberman pincher) was not correct”, and that the  South Australian Police Commissioner doubted that the use of dogs in the police force would be justified by the expense. It was not until 1930 that the first police dogs were being trained in Adelaide.

The Register-News Pictorial (Adelaide), 2nd December 1930 page 14.

 In 1931 Mr A. R. Vermeulen, a dog trainer in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, supplied dogs for the Victorian and South Australian police. New South Wales police started training two dogs for its new Dog Unit in 1932.  (At the time Victoria police  claimed that the breed in general had been “a failure”!)  The dogs were  trained in “all phases of police work; tracking, saving persons from drowning, dispersing mobs and protecting police from attacks.” However, the unit was disbanded from 1954 until 1979.

The Sun (Sydney), 30th August 1931 page 15.

The Sun (Sydney), 4th July 1933 page 11. Tess (Right) located a child’s body in under an hour after a failed 34 hour search by 20 police and 100 civilians in 1937. She was well known and loved, and when she died in 1940 aged 9, her body was preserved for the Police Museum.

Pix magazine, 25th February 1939. Zoe was trained to carry out tasks by radio communication.

Dedicated ‘Dog Squads’ were started in South Australia in 1974, in Queensland in 1972, in Victoria in 1975 and restarted in NSW in 1979. The Canine Section of West Australia’s Police Force was started in 1993 with just two dogs! Tasmania started a Dog Detection Unit in 2003, but still was not using “general purpose dogs” in 2021.