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".
K9 stayed with Leela on Gallifrey for many years. It was only after the disappearance of her Time Lord husband, Andred, that Leela and her K9 met Romana II and her K9. The two K9s did not get on well and competed. (AUDIO: Weapon of Choice) After Leela became Romana's bodyguard and after many important missions on her behalf, Leela's K9 was destroyed by an exploding bomb. Leela was heartbroken, but refused to have a duplicate unit built. (AUDIO: Imperiatrix)
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Damaged by the time winds, K9 Mark II could not cross back into N-Space with the Doctor. He decided to stay behind at the Gateway with Romana II to help her free the remaining Tharils from slavery. (TV: Warriors' Gate) Eventually, Romana II and the presumably repaired K9 returned to their own universe and K9 Mark II came to live on Gallifrey. (PROSE: Lungbarrow, WC: Shada, AUDIO: Zagreus)
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.
Introduced into the plot in The Invasion of Time, K9 Mark II first actually appear on-screen in The Ribos Operation (1978). More mobile than his predecessor, Mark II exhibited the ability to sense and warn others of danger. He travels as a companion alongside the Doctor and Romana. Around the time of Romana's regeneration (the transition from actress Mary Tamm to Lalla Ward), the K9 character was explained as suffering from "laryngitis" to accommodate Leeson's departure from the series at the start of the 1979–80 season; for this time, he was portrayed by David Brierley, until Leeson's return for the 1980–81 season. When the Doctor and Romana travel to the parallel universe of E-Space, K9 is severely damaged, in Warriors' Gate (1981). The damage was such that K9 could only function in E-Space; when Romana decided to stay and forge her own path, the Doctor gave K9 to her. The character makes subsequent appearances in remakes of the unfinished serial Shada, alongside the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann); the 2003 Shada audio play and webcast depict K9 Mark II as having returned to Gallifrey with Romana, now Lady President of the Time Lords, where the Doctor visits them. It is not clear if either of these audio appearances are considered canonical in relation to the continuity of the TV series.