The Minnesota State Patrol K-9 unit is currently staffed with 13 K-9 teams trained to detect the odor of narcotics, and one team trained to detect explosives. The State Patrol's dogs are not trained in other typical police functions such as apprehension or tracking. They live with their State Trooper handlers' families.
The dogs are Belgian Malinois, which many people believe resemble a smaller version of a typical German Shepherd. The unit also uses a Laborador Retriever and a Hungarian Vizsla. Their smaller size fits their assignment well and allows them to access and sniff an area as small as the trunk of a passenger vehicle. The unit also consists of German wire hair and German short hair pointer dogs.
These dogs are trained to sniff loaded semi-trailers by walking on top of the cargo, or by squeezing through gaps in the cargo, to check the entire length of the trailer. They are able to do this in a fraction of the time it would take a human to search the same vehicle.
Troopers and their K-9 partners meet as a group for two days of training each month, and handlers perform maintenance training throughout the month. This regular training is imperative for both the dog and handler to maintain their high level of performance.
K-9 teams are stationed in various parts of the state. All Minnesota State Patrol K-9 Troopers regularly respond to requests for assistance from a variety of allied law enforcement agencies. Requests range from assisting other Troopers on traffic stops, to assisting local law enforcement where drugs are believed to be hidden inside houses or other structures.