From Head to Paw

Jan. 16, 2020
Four K-9 products for the four-legged officer

Any piece of equipment meant for a K-9 must also include a benefit for the handler. Special equipment that is complicated and tough to carry can be cumbersome and difficult to replace. Products need to be simple, lightweight, and rugged. 

Human law enforcement officers have hundreds of products they use daily. And thousands of options on top of that. The K-9 market offers the same, and so many products aren’t found at your local consumer pet store.


Usually “body armor” is the first idea when considering protection. Few think about the first thing the K-9 puts into conflict: its head and face.

Derek Beck and his wife run K9 Helm Inc. Announced in March 2019 at the Police K-9 Conference & Vendor Show, their Trident M1 is a lightweight helmet designed for—and only for—the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd. Why only those two? “[The Belgian Malinois] popularity has become so great that I really saw the opportunity to design one helmet—one size, one design—and kind of have it a ‘one size fits most.’”

The Trident M1 looks to have taken a good amount of inspiration from the traditional bump helmet. It straps around the main area of a dog’s head leaving the mouth free and open. Two easily field-replaceable lenses offer eye protection. The ANSI-rated polycarbonate lenses were designed to fit in MOLLE pouches so handlers can carry along spares should they need. They come in two colors: clear and Smoke.

Keeping the helmet lightweight was key and that’s exactly the reason the Trident M1 does not offer any ballistic protection. And lightweight it is. The nylon plastic helmet comes with a set of clear and Smoke lenses and the full package still ships at 2.1 pounds. Additionally, the Trident M1 is also not designed for crash protection. Crash/sports helmets are much thicker and heavier—too thick and heavy for the K-9 to keep it’s speed and agility while detecting or chasing.

Each Trident M1 comes with VELCRO EVA-foam pads to custom-fit to your K-9 and multiple sizing charts to help handlers. It was designed to be as unobtrusive to the dog as possible, Beck says that the trainers and handlers who know their dog’s behavior report that the dog forgets about the helmet after 30 seconds or so. He says one Border Patrol customer has their dog wear it for “hours on end.”

The helmet itself features a Picatinny rail on top for mounting a light or video camera. This can be removed or adjusted forward or placed more towards the rear for mounting options. Recently, K9 Helm developed special ear pods as an ear protection accessory to the helmet and are currently working on a muzzle.

While the Trident M1 wasn’t developed for vehicle/crash protection, K-9 partners also need a specialized space for the patrol car. That’s where companies like Havis come into play. Their latest advancements include units the 2020 Ford Interceptor Utility and 2019 Chevy Tahoe. “These units provide dual dog options and more space for dogs to turn around and relax while in transport,” says Jeff Tripp, Project Manager: Fleet for Havis Inc.

The heat is a silent danger to anyone trapped in a car and the patrol vehicle is no different. Without adequate air circulation, temperatures can rise at an alarming rate. Havis K-9 units have built-in additional venting for climate control and a sliding front door for emergency access. For further K-9 safety, they recommend the “Hot N Pop” optional heat alarm.

Additional safety and accessibility improvements include an optional Dual Dog Divider with latching door featuring:

  • Quick egress latch accessible from either compartment or front
  • Prevents catching leash or collar
  • Not accessible to chewing
  • Latch design prevents rattle

The compartment allows a 50/50 or 60/40 split to allow different sized dogs, prisoner transport or to adapt to your storage requirements

Also exclusively available for the 2020 Interceptor Utility are aluminum door panels with fold-down window guards. The design includes an over-molded speaker cover to retain your original door construction and well as cut and formed to fit with mounting holes—this aids in making installation and cleaning easier.


Aside from being able to have a physical attachment to your K-9 with a leash or handle/harness, if you think about it, these also provide a tactile way of keeping track of the dog. Since, it’s there, in your hands and not 20 feet away in the darkness of the night. While a reflective patch can help, maybe, CORE Survival took their HEL-STAR personal marker light concept made for helmets and configured it to work for the canine world.

Made available earlier this year, with the assistance of a few K-9 handlers from military and law enforcement, CORE Survival HEL-STAR 4 EXO and 5 EXO were adapted to place a light on your K-9 officer. This allows officers to know the location and direction of your four-legged partner from up to a mile away (in perfect night conditions). Weighing about 2.3 ounces, including a single lithium 123 battery, the device includes the main controlling device made out of a rugged waterproof housing and a flexible “flap” of LED lights with a silicone cover to increase visibility.

A VELCRO backing allows quick, easy, and a durable connection to where they’re attached. Access to the field-replaceable battery is through the underside. I don’t mean water-resistant; “waterproof” was not a typo. Each device is laboratory-tested underwater to 300-feet before they’re packaged and shipped. The low-profile switch itself takes a good amount of pressure as well. Sticks or brush shouldn’t be a problem.

The light comes with three light settings. The first two are dim/bright IR with a third in a visible red. Each one flashes a distinct pattern to help catch the eye for easy recognition. In an accidental ironic turn, CORE Survival chose the letter D in Morse code for the pattern. It’s recognizable with a single long beat with two short flashes. Something easily trackable while in a loop. (I really hoped they chose D for “dog.”)


Allow me to clue you in on a little inside knowledge. Every once and a while when we cover K-9 training and equipment and aren’t able to find a decent photo for print, I’ll volunteer my 80-pound German Shepherd “Bear.” You can find him in photographs in “A Nose to the Ground” (Law Enforcement Technology, September 2014) and on the cover of Law Enforcement Product News March/April 2019. This later was part of an opportunity to accept a review of Dogtra’s Ball Trainer. This device allows a trainer to place a ball reward where necessary in a training course. The ball can be triggered wirelessly through a remote control up to 100 yards away. The unique part is the capability to both launch and drop the ball in one device at an affordable price. Set up a set of scent boxes and trigger a ball launch when the dog triggers on the correct target. Use the sling and hang the Ball Trainer to drop the ball.

The receiver (the launcher/dropper) is roughly 6.25 inches tall, about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide featuring two tubes: one to launch, the other to drop. The launder sends the ball up, not aggressively but with some good force, roughly five feet. It’s run on six AA 1.5-volt Alkaline batters and automatically goes into a “sleep” mode after a number of hours of non-use. Its battery-powered controller has the capability to be programmed to trigger up to eight Ball Trainers.

The K-9 market is rich of products. Are there any recent developments you would recommend?  

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