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Frequently Asked Questions

Let us know if you have a question not answered here! 


What kinds of things do the K9s of the Madison Police Department (MPD) K9 Unit do?

K9s are used to help find missing persons, locate and apprehend crime suspects, detect narcotics, and detect explosives.


What breeds of dogs are used by MPD?

MPD currently uses German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and some dogs which are crosses of those breeds.  These breeds possess intelligence, strength, endurance, and an eagerness to work.  They can tolerate Wisconsin weather, and are also social with people and other dogs.


Where do the dogs come from? 

The dogs are usually purchased from kennels and training facilities in the United States when they are 1-2 years old.  The US facilities buy them from breeders in Europe, who consistently raise dogs with the physical characteristics and temperament working dogs need most. 


How long does it take to train a dog to become a working police K9 with MPD?

Initial training usually takes 4-6 weeks.  In addition to initial training, the entire MPD K9 Unit trains together two full 8-hour days per month.  Handlers may also train with their K9s while on duty when not answering calls, or when off-duty.  Every MPD K9 and its handler completes annual certification with the North American Police Work Dog Association.


How long is the career of a working police K9 with MPD?

Most MPD K9s work for about 5-10 years.  The length of a K9’s career depends on a number of factors including the number and type of calls the K9 answers, and the K9’s overall health and well-being.  Capital K9s arranges for Wellness and Specialty Veterinarians to help keep all of MPD’s K9s healthy.


Do MPD K9s wear bullet-proof vests?

All MPD K9s have bullet-proof vests, however, they do not usually wear them when tracking for missing persons or sniffing for drugs.  When working in more dangerous situations, the K9s and handlers wear their vests.  K9 vests are donated by two other non-profit organizations:  Wisconsin Vest-A-Dog (also donates First Aid Kits!) and Keeping K9s in Kevlar.


What modifications are made to police cars to keep K9s safe?

MPD K9 Unit squad cars and SUVs feature platforms instead of back seats.  This provides each K9 a flat surface to stand or rest on.  K9 Unit vehicles also have bars across the rear windows so the K9s cannot jump out or stick their heads out of the windows.  Heat sensors and remote monitoring tools are installed in all K9 Unit vehicles to monitor interior temperature and keep the K9s as safe as possible in all conditions.


Where to do the K9s go when they are not working?

When they are not working, MPDs K9s go home with their handlers to enjoy their time off, just like human police officers.  


How many times per year are MPD’s K9s called upon?

Calls for service range from 800-1,000 per year.  The most common requests are for tracking and narcotics detection.  Prior to Covid, K9s and handlers also performed about 100 community demonstrations throughout each year.


Where do K9s receive their veterinary care?

Most veterinary care is donated by community veterinarians who provide routine wellness care. Emergency care is provided by all three of Madison’s local emergency veterinary clinics – so the K9s can receive emergency care quickly at the most convenient location possible.  Medications and veterinary expenses which are not donated are all paid for by Capital K9s.


What language is spoken to give K9 commands?

The most common language for K9 commands is Dutch.  However, handlers typically give commands in the language of origin of the K9.  If the K9 is from Netherlands, Dutch is spoken; if from Germany, German is used.  MPD K9s over the years have understood commands in Dutch, German, and Czech.  This is partly because the K9s begin learning commands while they are still in their country of origin; it is also partly to help each handler develop a special working relationship with their K9 — so the K9 can focus on their handler’s commands when working.  Each K9 also understands basic obedience commands in English — so, technically, our K9s are bilingual! 


How did Capital K9s get started?

Capital K9s was formed in 2004 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.  It was modeled after the “Dollars for Dogs” organization created to support the K9 Unit of the Anchorage (Alaska) Police Department.


How much does it cost to fund a K9?

A donation of $50,000 is needed to fully fund a new K9. That amount covers the purchase of a K9 and other necessary expenses such as buying and modifying a police car, initial training for the K9 and their handler, on-going training and certification, and veterinary expenses.  A sponsor at this level is offered the opportunity to name the K9 they sponsor.


How much does the City of Madison contribute to the MPD K9 Unit?

The City of Madison pays only for the handlers’ salaries and benefits.  All other expenses for the MPD K9 Unit are covered by Capital K9s, which continually raises money to maintain and build the MPD K9 Unit.

What is the connection between Capital K9s and Friends of Madison Mounted?

Capital K9s is incorporated as “City of Madison Police K9 and Equine Partners, Inc.” and does business as both “Capital K9s” and “Friends of Madison Mounted Horse Patrol.”  For fundraising and community outreach purposes, we utilize two boards of directors so each can focus on the unique needs of MPD’s K9 Unit and its Mounted (Horse) Unit. 

You can support Capital K9s in a variety of ways! We appreciate donations of all sizes. Some ways to contribute include:

  • Making a one-time donation, a monthly gift, or an annual contribution of any amount

  • Sponsoring a K9

  • Sponsoring an event

  • Volunteer your time at an event or serving as a member of Capital K9s’ Board of Directors

  • Choosing us as your charity of choice when you shop at

  • Asking your employer to match your donations

  • Attending our fundraising events

  • Thanking members of the MPD K9 Unit for all they do to serve and protect our community

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