Custom Patches for Police K9 Units

Custom Patches for Police K9 Units

Commemorating officers both human and canine

Police departments today rely on custom patches to convey important information, denote membership on special squads and to maintain camaraderie and boost morale.

Virtually every police specialty has its own patch, and canine, or K9 units are no exception. But there’s a difference. With K9 units, both human handlers and their highly trained partner dogs can wear patches.

That’s right, custom patches are part of the official K9 uniform for many units nationwide. And with good reason. The dogs are an integral part of the partnership with the handler. They handle cases together, so they should have identifying patches together.

Dogs occupy a unique place in police work. Several different breeds can be trained to detect drugs, explosives or other contraband, find missing persons, even help make arrests of wanted suspects.

The bond with handlers is unique as well. Both dog and handler live together, and the dog becomes not just a trusted partner on the job, but also a member of the family.

Let’s take a look at how custom K9 patches can serve both dog and man.

The Origins of K9 Units

Before we consider K9 patches, it’s helpful to consider how dogs became a valuable part of law enforcement.

Dogs have been part of military units for thousands of years. They’ve also had informal roles working with officers and security guards at piers and docks as far back as the Middle Ages.

We can trace the beginnings of modern police dog units back to the late 19th century. In 1888, British police used bloodhounds in their efforts to find Jack the Ripper. 

The real beginning, however, took place in Belgium 11 years later. That’s when the police commissioner of the city of Ghent asked for dogs for his force because there was no money available for extra men. Police officers trained the dogs to support them on the street, and thus the first K9 training program was born.

Other European countries soon followed suit. In the early 1900s, New York City sent an inspector to Belgium to study the Ghent program. He brought back five Belgian sheepdogs, and the first K9 program in the United States began.

It wasn’t exactly a roaring success. The dogs were trained to attack anyone who wasn’t wearing a police uniform. On patrol at night, they simply tackled anyone not dressed as an officer, and barked until their handler arrived. 

Needless to say, that didn’t really endear the dogs to either the officers or the citizens.

By the 1950s, things had progressed. The city of Baltimore initiated what became the first truly successful K9 unit in the United States. By the 1970s, they were a mainstream part of many more police departments across the country. One source estimates there are about 50,000 working police dogs in the country today.

What Police Dogs Do

Today, police dogs are a valuable asset for many departments and agencies. They’re often trained for specialized tasks such as apprehending suspects, tracking, or detecting contraband such as drugs, explosives or firearms. Dogs may be single-purpose, such as for protection or tracking, or dual purpose. The dual purpose dogs can handle protection or tracking work and also serve as detection dogs.

The dogs typically are trained with a single handler, and live with the handler and his or her family throughout the dogs’ careers. Handlers often adopt the dogs when they retire from active duty, usually after about six to nine years.

Several breeds can be trained as police dogs, with the most popular being German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhounds and Labrador Retrievers.

Patches for K9 Units

Each dog and handler trains together as a unit. They’re identified as such, with customary police insignia, including patches. While the handler wears patches on his or her uniform, the dog commonly wears an identifying vest. Both can wear custom patches made with hook-and-loop (Velcro®) backing that allows for easy application and removal.

Patches for K9 units don’t have to use Velcro, although Velcro itself owes its creation to a dog. Sew-on patches offer a permanent attachment, but lack the flexibility to move patches that the Velcro-backed patches do.

The patches a K9 unit dog wears can convey important information. Larger patches on both sides of the vest can make it clear that the dog is a working police dog. Additional patches may warn bystanders not to approach or pet the dog. And departmental patches can show which agency the dog is affiliated with.

The handler, meanwhile, can wear his or her departmental identification patches, and one that identifies them as part of a K9 unit. 

Some departments choose to feature a logo for their K9 units, such as the patches pictured above. Others are simply stick to the facts, straightforward information.

Patch Types

While embroidered patches are the most common type for K9 unit patches, you’re not limited to those. PVC patches feature increased legibility and rugged construction that won’t fray or fade from sun exposure. Your patch provider can help determine which is best for your department’s specific patch needs.

Memorial Patches

Some departments choose to feature a logo for their K9 units, such as the patches pictured above. Others are simply stick to the facts, straightforward information.

It’s a grim fact of life that police officers face life-threatening dangers every shift. K9 units are no different. On occasion, either a dog or a handler makes the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Custom memorial patches can be a way to honor the life of both and their duty together.

Commemorative Patches

Custom patches are also an outstanding way to commemorate K9 unit achievements. These can include significant arrests, successful rescues, or even retirements of dogs and handlers. There are plenty of choices available to celebrate and honor the dedication of both members of the team.

At, we have 20 years’ experience creating custom patches for all needs, including custom K9 unit patches for police dogs and their handlers. We offer police patches for any other units in the department as well, including detectives, bomb squad, patrol and more. Let us show you how custom patches can increase the professional look of your specialized units, and how easy it can be to order.


Rick Cundiff

Rick Cundiff

Content Director, Blogger

Rick Cundiff spent 15 years as a newspaper journalist before joining TJM Promos. He has been researching and writing about custom patches and other promotional products for more than 10 years. He believes in the Oxford comma, eradicating the word "utilize," and Santa Claus.