The unique role and training of K-9 units give them a distinct personality focusing on the training and partnership between police dogs and their handlers. Capturing this unique bond is essential for designing a challenge coin for K-9 Units. This All About Challenge Coins design article focuses on helping you find inspiration designing a localized K-9 unit coin.
Looking for Inspiration
Some clients approach us with a clear idea of what they want in a K-9 unit coin, while others aren’t sure where to start but want a way to represent the identity of their unit. Whichever is the case, K-9 units can find inspiration for their designs from many sources. Ask yourself these questions as a starting point when thinking about what kind of design you want in a challenge coin.
What responsibilities does your K-9 unit fulfill?
Police dogs and their handlers are trained to work together as a team to fulfill many responsibilities including searching for illegal substances, pursuing fleeing suspects, tracking individuals, finding missing persons and detecting dangerous materials. If there’s a specific specialty or a unique role your team of handlers and canines take pride in, look for ways to represent that in your design.
How do you plan on using your challenge coins?
Think about why you’ve decided to get challenge coins for your K-9 unit. Are you looking to build team unity? Planning on using the coins for fundraising in the local community? Honoring specific canines and their handlers for outstanding service to the community? Part of the brainstorming process is answering these questions and then finding ways to reflect that in a design. A coin you design to remember a retired police dog will vary greatly in the design elements from a challenge coin designed to help raise money for your organization’s charity drive for a dog shelter.
What does the unit say?
One of the best ways to help define what symbols or aspects of your K-9 unit are most important for a design is to simply check with your K-9 unit and crowdsource what aspects of their work or symbols they take the most pride in. From a unique slogan or in-joke around the department to unique law enforcement situations they’ve had to deal with, simply asking around can be the best way to find what’s most important around the station.
For example, a coin we designed for the Dallas Police K-9 Squad features not only an image of one of their trained german shepherds but also includes the unit specific slogan, “Committed to all, loyal to one.” Adding the slogan helps define their coin as specifically recognizing the Dallas Police K-9 Unit meaningfully identifies the coin as distinctly their unit coin.
Localize K-9 Unit Coins and Picture Dogs in 3D
It should come as no surprise that one of the most represented designs of virtually every K-9 challenge coin is a depiction of a police dog. However, a lot of K-9 units take it a step further with their coins adding images of specific police dogs from their unit to a coin’s design. This personalizes a unit’s challenge coin to a specific unit while paying homage to both the unique training of the unit and their canine partners.
For example, take a look at the challenge coin we designed for the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) K-9 Unit. Subtle design elements including the thin blue line over the U.S. flag found on the coin’s reverse are recognizable law enforcement symbols reflecting the coin’s purpose to honor CPD officers and other law enforcement officers. However, what makes the coin stand out as a K-9 Unit coin is the main design on the coin’s obverse, an image depicting one of the department’s new Vapor Wake bomb detection dogs. The image, based off a photo of a CPD police dog, resonates more strongly as a specific symbol for responsibilities of CPD K-9 officers and better honors their unique role than a coin with more general police emblems or symbols would have.
Incorporating a station’s dogs into a challenge coin is as simple as sending us images of an organization’s police dogs and asking us to make it happen. As easy as it is, choosing to depict the actual dogs K-9 officers work with every day makes a K-9 coin a much more personal manifestation of your unit’s identity. If you choose to feature an image of an actual dog on your coin, we recommend going for a 3D coin design to better bring life to a dog’s image. As you can tell from CPD coin example, it’s entirely possible to create interesting representations of a police dog even without 3D. However, going 3D creates a much more realistic depiction of the dog and it’s one of the most popular additions from our previous K-9 unit customers.
Adapting Local Law Enforcement Symbols and Slogans
While the canine partners of the K-9 units are a specialized police group, they work together with an entire police force as part of the “thin blue line” that protects the public. Members of a K-9 unit, quadrupedal and bipedal alike, coordinate their efforts with investigators and other law enforcement units within their station. Adapting parts of a law enforcement organization’s existing emblems, badges or slogans is a good way to pay homage to a K-9 unit’s day-to-day work with other units.
Depicting images of K-9 police dogs aren’t an organization’s only means of honoring the partnership between police dogs and their handlers. Some K-9 units prefer more subtle representations of their unit’s bond with their animals, such as designs incorporating a dog’s pawprint or teeth. In some cases, customers might even send images of an actual casting of a police dog’s pawprint to reference their canine partners.
Choosing a cut-to-shape coin may be better because the option allows you to change a coin’s design to any shape or look you might want. From paw prints to police badges, choosing to cut-to-shape a coin allows customers to capture the identity of their organization through the physical shape of the coin itself.
The Choice is Yours
All About Challenge Coins receives many consistent design requests and ideas from law enforcement organizations throughout the nation, but one of the most important details we stress about our design process is the creative freedom of our customers. From color options to magnetizing coins, our services strive to help you bring your ideas to life. At the end of the day, the greatest source of creativity for your K-9 unit’s challenge coin from the culture and life of your local force. If you think you’re ready to get to work, contact us for a free quote and let us do the rest.