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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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POLICE DOGS. Dogs have been used in law enforcement since the Middle Ages. Wealth and money was then tithed in the villages for the upkeep of the parish constable's bloodhounds that were used for hunting down outlaws. Bloodhounds used in Scotland were known as "slough dogs" from which the word "sleuth", (meaning detective) was derived. (1)

A police dog, known in some English-speaking countries as a "K-9" or "K9" (a homophone of "canine"), is a dog that is specifically trained to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel. Their duties include: searching for drugs and explosives, locating missing people, finding crime scene evidence, and attacking people targeted by the police. Police dogs must remember several verbal cues and hand gestures. The most commonly used breeds are the German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhound, Dutch Shepherd, and Retriever breeds. Often the Belgian Malinois has become the dog of choice for police and military work due to their intense drive and focus. Malinois are smaller and more agile than German Shepherds, and have fewer health issues. (2)

In many countries, the intentional injuring or killing of a police dog is a criminal offense. (3) While 1 in 200 police officers will be seriousy wounded during their careers, nearly 25% of the police dogs face serious injury. They are often the first used to search buildings because of their ability to detect drugs and explosives and to search out fleeing suspects. (4)

In 2000 the DUBUQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT and the Dubuque County deputies formed a committee to research the benefits of a K-9 unit, the breeds of dog, equipment and raining need, and the selection of the handler. They decided on the Malinois because it had a work life of about eleven years. The type of dog was smaller and could handle heat and humidity better than German shepherds and seemed to put forth 100% effort all the time. (5)

In 2001 the first canine to join the K-9 unit was Iwan (pronounced "evon") a 60 pound Belgian Malinois. He had been trained in Belgium and certified in tracking, obedience and some narcotics work. The committee found him through the Vohn Liche Kennels in Denver, Indiana which matched the handler's personality with the dog. The kennels was also the site of the five-week training course both the handler and the dog's master, Randy Roy, were later enrolled. Both the handler and dog were given a week to bond before training began. Roy, a five year veteran of the force, had to learn all the commands in the Dutch language he would be giving Iwan. (6) Once on the local police force, Officer Roy spent between fifty and sixty hours per month training his partner.

In May, 2002 Iwan placed second overall at the Police Dog Olympics where he competed against 54 dogs from 12 states. He also joined the department's tactical unit which allowed him to assist in high-response drug searches and warrant execution. In August, 2002 Officer Roy and Iwan had searched dozens of vehicles, found more than five pounds of drugs, and likely saved a young man's life. The young man, one of three attempting to burglarize the DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY was found by Iwan in a locked beer cooler in which he would have likely suffocated. Iwan had also assisted other law enforcement agencies in Iowa and Illinois. (7)

The board of education for the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT in 2005 voted 4-3 to prohibit the use of drug dogs in district schools. (8) In 2010 a lawsuit was filed against a police officer and the city claiming that the police used excessive force and racially discriminated against him when unleashing a police dog after a person ran from a high speed car chase. The chair of the Dubuque Community Advisory Panel, Marcos Rubinstein, did not oppose using a K-9 unit because it was an alternative to deadly force, but held reservations because of the troubled history of using dogs. Assistant Police Chief Terry Tobin said that between 2007 and 2010 there had been ten incidents of "physical apprehension" of a suspect using a dog with no formal complaints. To release the dog from a suspect, the handler gave the dog a verbal command, physically removed the animal, or both. (9)

Officer Wullweber and "Brix" (right). Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

In 2011 the K9s4COPS program of Houston, Texas begun by Kristi Schiller, donated "Brix", a Belgian Malinois born in the Czech Republic, to the Dubuque Police Department. Usually police dogs cost between $10,000 and $15,000. In 2015 Corporal Brian Wullweber, who learned to give "Brix" commands in Czech, and "Brix" were featured on the "Steve Harvey" show. Since becoming a member of the Dubuque police force, Brix won national recognition for his skills in tracking, narcotics investigations, and obedience. (10)

Demonstrations of the ability of police dogs to find drugs was demonstrated in elementary schools as early as 2008. A team of police handler and dog were introduced to students who were told not to attempt to pet the dog. As part of the demonstration, the class was removed from the room and a teacher was given a cigarette to hide in one of the desks. The class was then invited in to watch the dog and handler walk through the rows. Once the dog detected the cigarette, it stopped by the desk until the handler had an opportunity to find the cigarette. (11) By 2018 as part of the school district's efforts to maintain the safety of schools, police dogs were brought to high schools.

In 2019 police pointed to several advantages K-9 units brought to law enforcement. A trained dog's indication of the presence of a drug gave the officer probable cause for a search. Trained dogs also de-escalated tense standoffs. Just the knowledge that a dog was present often caused suspects to give up. In 2018 Dubuque police recorded 185 K-9 related arrests and the seizure of 4,000 grams of marijuana, 31.7 grams of powder cocaine, and 1,098 grams of methamphetamine. (12)



1. "Police Dog," Wikipedia, Online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_dog

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Blanchard, Courtney, "Deputy's Partner Dies In Line of Duty," Telegraph Herald, January 20, 2009, p. 3

5. Greene, Kylie, "Police Rookie Prepares to Take a Bite Out of Crime," Telegraph Herald, July 7, 2001, p. 1A

6. Ibid., p. 2A

7. Greene, Kylie, "K-9 Helping Dubuque Police Collar Criminals, Handler Says," Telegraph Herald, December 2, 2002, p. 1A

8. Fuerste, Madelin, "Racial, Historical Concerns Raised on Dogs' Use," Telegraph Herald, June 13, 2005, p. 1A

9. Blanchard, Courtney, "Police: K-9's Can Save Lives," Telegraph Herald, March 6, 2010, p. 1A

10. "Dubuque Cop, K9 Share Spotlight on TV," Telegraph Herald, April 23, 2015, p. 5

11. Lyon, Randolph, teacher at Hoover Elementary School and observer of the lesson

12. Goldstein, Bennet, "Funding a Constant Challenge for Law Enforcement K-9 Units," Telegraph Herald, November 7, 2019, p. 5A