This article was originally posted on Police1.

As the K-9 coordinator for my agency, I have purchased thousands of dollars of equipment for the K-9 teams I supervise. As with all law enforcement agencies, our budgets are usually limited. Many K-9 units across the country (including my own) are primarily funded by donations. After continuous in-service training, food costs, endless veterinary bills, and much more, my budget is depleted.

In many law enforcement specialty units, inadequate budgets leave the individual unit members responsible for buying the proper tools to help make their unit successful. In light of this reality, I sat down with my team to come up with eight essential pieces of equipment for a K-9 handler

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When it comes to line control during detection deployments, tracking, and longline searching you are going to want a good-quality pair of gloves to protect your hands from rub burns and blistering. Minimizing injury and discomfort will enable you and your partner to perform for longer periods of time.

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There have been many occasions in my career as a law enforcement officer where I was stuck on a barricade or in the middle of nowhere with limited water and no food. This is a frequent occurrence for a K-9 handler. Purchasing a decent-sized, heavy-duty ice chest or cooler to keep extra water and snacks in for extended or hot weather deployments is a must. For snacks, I recommend granola bars and beef jerky.

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Inevitably, as a K-9 handler, you will be called on to conduct an open area search or track in the middle of the night. Having a good headlamp will come in handy as you are going to need a light, and your hands need to remain free to work your partner. I recommend spending the money to purchase an extra weapon light and mount it to a ballistic helmet. Make sure you have other light sources as well, so when your battery dies on your primary light source you can continue on.   

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K-9 handlers, as with all law enforcement officers, carry a lot of stuff. Having a tactical rollup dump pouch attached to your Sam Browne belt is essential. The pouch can be used to hold all those accessory items for deployments and training days, including extra leashes, water, flashlights, dog booties, toys, and treats (for you and your partner).

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Find the right toy or toys that create a high work drive in your K-9 partner to be used as a reward when they do good work. Some K9s only need one toy while others need a different toy for different performance drives, such as patrol work, detection, and tracking. Once you find the toys that create the right kind of drive in your partner, buy as many of them as you can afford, as your partner will tear them up on a regular basis.


Minor injuries for you and your partner are part of the gig when it comes to working on K-9 deployments. Have a small first aid kit that can fit in your cargo pocket or dump pouch. Your first aid kit should include a plethora of Band-Aids, QuikClot bleeding control dressing, a tourniquet, a pair of tweezers to remove splinters, and a soft muzzle or triangular bandage.

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Much like being stuck in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, it is inevitable that your partner will track a suspect right through some poison oak or poison ivy. When that happens, it is crucial to decontaminate yourself and your equipment as soon as you possibly can. Tecnu does the trick. Then go back to the station to take a shower and wash your partner too.


As a K-9 handler conducting an extended open area search or track, you need a good pair of comfortable boots. You are also going to want to ensure these boots have proper ankle support to prevent injury on the unforgiving ground and muddy terrain. Depending on where you live, you might want your boots to be waterproof too. In Southern California, we don’t get much rain, so this isn’t as big of a concern for our K9 handlers.

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  • A bottle or two of hydrogen peroxide 3-percent solution for those times when your partner swallows something that needs to come back out quick. It will make the K-9 vomit so be ready for that too!
  • Cooling pads/vest for German Shepherds.
  • A good K-9 tactical harness, with the capability to cool the dog.
  • Ballistic and stab-proof vests and Narcan kits for K-9 officers are a must. If departments don’t provide handlers with these, they can apply for donated vests and kits through        

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