The initial idea for realising K9 was to use a small actor inside a robotic Dobermann costume, but that was rejected in favour of a radio-controlled prop, designed by Tony Harding and made by the BBC Visual Effects Department. The Radio Control Model Centre in Harlington Middx owned by Derek Wales was commissioned to build the electronics into the first original basic shell and consequently the centre operated the dog on set for the BBC. The robot suffered from numerous technical problems during its time in the series, often malfunctioning because the radio controls interfered with the cameras and vice versa. On location, K9 also proved unable to traverse uneven terrain, and shots had to be conceived with this in mind. Workarounds included using a concealed piece of twine to pull the character along (this string can be clearly seen in a shot of K9 on Brighton Beach), or laying wooden planks on which it could roll.
K9 helped Sarah Jane to defeat Moreton Harwood's murderous Hecate Cult. (TV: A Girl's Best Friend) Circa 1983, K9 Mark III and Sarah Jane lived in semi-detached house where their gate bore a "beware of dog" sign and Sarah Jane permitted him outside unconcealed. Sensing danger, he advised Sarah Jane to either not go out, or to take him with her. She declined, and K9 thus did not accompany her to Gallifrey. (TV: The Five Doctors) K9 accompanied Sarah to an archaeological dig in Egypt. (COMIC: City of Devils) In the early 1990s, K9 assisted Sarah in investigating a supposedly haunted house. (PROSE: Housewarming)
The Virgin New Adventures seventh Doctor novel Lungbarrow (written by former Doctor TV series writer Marc Platt) featured K9s Marks I and II meeting for the first time on Gallifrey during the events surrounding the disappearance of the Doctor's entire family house and his living relatives, which also featured many previous established Gallifreyan based characters. The two collaborated towards rescuing the Doctor, then current companion Chris Cwej and the Doctor's lost family. This novel also served as the direct lead-in story to the 1996 Doctor Who telemovie.
On 24 October 2015, Bob Baker and Paul Tams announced the film K9: TimeQuake which is destined for cinemas in 2017 and is to feature the robot dog facing off against classic Doctor Who villain Omega in deep space. However, this did not happen leaving it unknown when the movie will be released.. In 2018 it was confirmed TimeQuake was confirmed to still be in pre-production, with plans for a prequel TV show to establish K9 for modern audiences before the movie.
The handler and dog must also be able to pass the police test, which involves controlling the dog fully, even after giving the dog the attack command. The dog must stop immediately and fulfill any command it is given by the handler. There are specifications of training involved in using trained K9 police dogs in the airport, marine ports, railroads, in a metro station.
K9 Mark III first appeared in "A Girl's Best Friend", the 1981 pilot for a series, K-9 and Company, which never materialized beyond the first episode. In this, the character is presented to the Doctor's former companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen); together, the two embark on what a number of adventures. Only the first of these is depicted on-screen; several are shown in comic book and audio play adaptations, and others are alluded to by the television series. Mark III made a brief appearance alongside Sarah Jane in the Doctor Who 20th anniversary ninety-minute special The Five Doctors (1983), before appearing properly and for the final time in the revived series' episode "School Reunion" in 2006. By the time of that story, Mark III has fallen into disrepair and eventually sacrifices himself to stop a plot by the alien Krillitane and defeat their leader, Lucas Finch (Anthony Head). In the episode's conclusion, the Doctor presents Sarah Jane with a new K9 to encourage her to continue investigating alien activity; the Doctor "rebuilt" him after the Mark III's sacrifice, implying that he had the same mind and memories as his predecessor while still being a "brand new model".