This Is What Happens to K9 Dogs When They Retire

These dogs work tirelessly to keep their handlers and communities safe. But what happens when their work is finished?

All dogs are incredible companions—that is especially true for K9 dogs. Police dogs receive specific training to assist law enforcement in ways nobody else can. They sweep venues for explosives, search buildings for narcotics, apprehend suspects on the run, and help the police force in many other important ways. But what happens when they retire? Here are some of the bravest dogs in history.

Why do police dogs retire?

People retire because of age—that’s also true for police dogs. Police dogs work extremely hard their whole life, so between the ages of seven and 11, they’re usually ready to retire, according to The Spruce Pets.

Unfortunately, as K9 dogs have a high-stress job, they can exhibit negative behaviors such as aggression, separation anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Here are common “facts” about dogs that are actually not true.

What happens to retired police dogs?

Police DogRichLegg/Getty Images

These days, retired K9 dogs are sent to loving homes after they retire. However, this was not always the case. Most retired police dogs were euthanized before President Bill Clinton ended the practice by signing Robby’s Law in 2000, which states that retired police and military dogs can be adopted by their handlers or other service members.

“Most K9 police dogs will go live with a family. Most of the time, this is the same person that was their handler but could be anyone that the police force approves to have the dog,” says Sara Ochoa, a small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas and a veterinary consultant for DogLab.

The handlers of police dogs are generally the first choice to adopt the animals, according to The Spruce Pets. It’s a perfect pairing as the handler and police dog already have an established bond. For those worried about police dogs adjusting to normal, civilian life, Ochoa puts those concerns to rest.

“These dogs usually adjust very easily to home life. They are kept with a family during their working time and once it is over can easily adjust to living with kids and a family,” says Ochoa. “Most of these dogs are trained to know when they are on the job and when they are not.”

But what if a K9 dog’s handler is unable to adopt them? That’s when other people come into play. The opportunity arises for the dog to be adopted by the general public usually if a handler has died or doesn’t have the capacity to care for the dog, according to The Spruce Pets. Next, read up on the telltale signs your dog is happy.