Winners of 'Public Choice' Award

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Engaging An Effective Recall

Many people have asked about how we teach & train an effective recall with our pups. I put this down to 2 elements.

Regular readers of the Blog & followers on Twitter, will have seen me mention 'engagement' a number of times. It's the key topic for Michael Ellis, whom I am a MASSIVE fan of. A great deal of what we do with our pups has been heavily influenced by Michael Ellis. I've watched numerous videos of his and read many, many articles of his. I'd love to get over to the States one day & do a bit of work with him. The stuff he gets his pups doing is amazing, & is really the benchmark we're aiming for with our pups.

Michael Ellis

If you've never come across Michael Ellis, go over & check out his work.

To me, the 2 real key elements to an effective recall are; the engagement I have with our pups, alongside the use of a whistle. I've done a separate Blog on Whistle Recall, but if you just rely on a whistle for a recall it won't be as effective as using it alongside a fully engaged dog.

Here's a Leerburg Video on the importance of Engagement taken from Michael Ellis' website. There's lots of great videos on there, & all are well worth taking the time to watch.

Michael Ellis

The reason - I believe - that our pups come on so well is down to our relationship with them. The work & training we do with them, is done because the pups WANT to do it for us. The pups WANT to please us. I've said before, the most important thing to do with a dog when you first get it, is to bond with him.

You need to become the dog's world, so that he wants to be with you & so that he wants everything you have. Only time & positive experiences create a bond with a dog, which is why I always recommend people take a couple of weeks off work when they get a new pup. It's such a crucial stage of their development.

I was asked to have one of the new WMP Dutch Herder pups, but I've had to unfortunately decline running one on. Simply because, when they're ready to be allocated, I'll be in Thailand, so the pup would have had to go to a 'tempoarary home' before I could pick him up at around 14/15 weeks old. I had to unfortunately decline, because I would miss such a crucial period of time with him. Around the age of 6 to 14 weeks with the pup is where the most important work starts - & I would have missed it.

First Dutch Herder pup bred by West Mids Police

I would have loved the chance to work with a Herder, however I have to consider what is best for the dog & ultimately the management of the dog when he gets older. Missing a crucial stage in his development is very important, & developing a bond is also important. So for the pup to have effectively have had 2 homes by the time he's 14 weeks old isn't an ideal situation.

So a bond & having an engaged dog is the real key to an effective recall - not just a strong whistle recall.

An Engaged Dog

To me, having an 'engaged dog' means that the dog is more interested in what you are doing than anything else around it.

Michael Ellis

However, some dogs are easier to engage & motivate than others. Take Taylor & Bandit as a prime example.

Taylor is a Beagle & therefore his mind when he is out walking isn't really too bothered about me. He'd much rather sniff, sniff &. . . . sniff. If his nose is down & I say something, it's very likely that he'll just carry on sniffing & totally ignore me!!

So keeping Taylor engaged is a little more difficult than keeping Bandit engaged.

The reason being, is that 2 totally different things motivate & engage them.

If I have a ball/toy, Bandit is all over me like a rash - however the ball/toy does absolutely nothing for Taylor. If I threw a ball for Taylor he'd probably look at me like I'd just chopped off my own head!!

Bandit & his Kong Squeezz Ball

If however, I have some tasty food with me, Taylor is all over me like a rash, whereas Bandit isn't overly bothered about food.

So it's vitally important to understand what motivates your dog enough for you to be engaged with him.

This is where recall training gets difficult. You HAVE to be the dog's world, you HAVE to provide all of the dog's enjoyment & excitement whilst you are out - otherwise he'll go off looking for it himself.

You'll have seen in previous Blogs that I'm always talking to, hugging, picking up & playing with the dog when I'm out. It's what helps create the bond & engagement with your dog.

Me & PD Ozzy in the Peak District

My absolute pet hate when I'm out, is other dogs running upto us to say . . . 'hello'. My dogs are not interested in running over to other dogs to get their enjoyment - they get it all from me. So similarly I don't want me or my dogs providing someone else's dog with it's enjoyment. I actually get quite grumpy about it - especially if the owners are calling the dog back from the other side of the park!!

I do understand if the dog is a young pup though, however there are a few 'regular culprits' of this in our local park!!

Like I said in one of my previous Bandit Update Blogs, if I cannot remain suitably engaged with my dogs to ensure that they are under control, I will not allow them off the lead.

So just having a whistle & blowing it, will not ensure that your dog has an effective recall. Alongside the whistle you need to ensure that you have enough motivation for your dog to come back to you. You also need enough engagement with your dog to ensure that really he doesn't need to go running after any other dogs or people.

Dogs running around in parks

The number of people I see pointlessly blowing a whistle, whilst their dogs ignore it & carry on running around with other dogs in the park is crazy. As with any piece of dog equipment, it will only work if used correctly & that you have taught the dog what blowing the whistle actually means!

You need to be energetic, exciting & fun for your dog to be around. You need to play with & engage with your dog to ensure he sees YOU as his source of fun, & not a bird, another person or another dog.

If however, your dog does have an overriding urge to chase after something, & the urge is too strong & they decide it's more fun to chase that than engage with you - then you need a very good recall.

Sear used to LOVE chasing squirells & 'Mad Ozzy' used to LOVE chasing anything - including aeroplanes flying in the sky!! So you are not alone in having a dog who has strong desires to break the engagement piece every now & again!! Like I say, my pups aren't always perfect!

PD 'Mad' Ozzy

Fortunately, having a strong recall rescues the situation & for this I use a Whistle Recall.


I really like & recommend John Rogerson's book - The Dog Vinci Code:Unlock The Secrets To Training Your Dog. It's a really good & informative, easy read book, with a whole host of useful topics & information.

An extract from the book, highlights exactly how I think all dogs should behave for a recall:-
"When you exercise your dog in the park & it meets another dog, it should be able to politely hold the following conversation:
Hello there, I don't believe that we have met before, but my name is Rover & I live just a short distance down the road. What is your name & where do you live?
Oh, you must excuse me - my owner has just called me so I must go, but it was nice meeting you

What you don't want is the following conversation:
Hi there, what a great day to meet you in the park. Are you up for a game a chase? Actually, there are another group of dogs over there - why don't we run up & surprise them? I know all their names & most of them just love to play chasing & wrestling games....
What was that? Someone shouting Rover? Anyone here called Rover? No? I can't understand what these people keep shouting. Anyway it's no concern to us - let's play!"

So once you have developed your bond with your dog & have the dog engaged with you - you can start to use the whistle as your Recall command tool.

Whistle Recall

Following on from our 'Engaging An Effective Recall' Blog . . .

I'm a real big advocate for the use of a whistle, especially for training a strong recall. The great thing with a whistle, is that it can be heard by the dog a fair distance away & the tone & pitch will always be the same.

Very often a recall may be needed when your dog is doing something you don't want him to do, & therefore as a consequence the tone of your voice will change when you call him back. Dogs pick up on this & the very nature of just a small change in voice tone can affect the dogs reaction. More often than not, your voice will be a little sterner so the dog picks up on this.

The benefit of using a whistle is that it sounds the same each time you blow it - within reason.

You can train your dog to perform a whole host of exercises just based on the way in which you blow the whistle. Take sheep dogs or gun dogs for example. A lot of their distance control, away from the handler, is commanded using a whistle.

However, I simply use a whistle to produce a strong, solid & reliable recall. In Police Dog work, I also use the whistle to help train the 'emergency stop' exercise. But for the purposes of simplicity, I'll let you know the basics to training a recall via a whistle.

Teaching a recall via a whistle, starts in a very similar way to clicker training. You can find our Blog article on Clicker Training here. You need to start with the very basics & slowly build up.

Initially, you are simply teaching the dog that every time you blow your whistle, he comes to you, & you then make the dog feel like he's just won you the lottery!!

As I always say, this isn't necessarily the ONLY way to whistle train a recall, nor is it the BEST way. It is however, the way in which I have trained our pups a whistle recall & it's a dead easy process.

The Whistle

There's a whole host of different 'dog whistle's' out there these days. They come in all shapes, sizes, materials, tones some even have the ability to change the whistle's pitch! There's no particular right or wrong whistle to use. Whatever you are comfortable with.

We brought a whistle/clicker from eBay! In fact it was buy 2 get 1 free & you can never have enough whistles or clickers! Here's the link to the eBay product.

One thing I would say is, don't spend too much money on a whistle & always get a few - because you can guarantee at some point - you'll lose it!!

Whistle & Reward

So once you've got your whistle, in the wise words of Jiminy Cricket, it's time to "give a little whistle".

You first need to teach your dog that every time you blow your whistle, he comes & gets a nice treat whilst you act like you have just won the lottery! This is where, you really do need to lose you inhibitions & act like a nutter!!

I start off teching the whistle recall with pups at 6 weeks old & just do it in the house. You can start this with a dog at any age. Bandit was taught his whistle recall at 6 months old, but exactly the same principle & method applied.

Get a pocket full of food (without your dog knowing) - I tend to use hotdog sausages - & get your whistle ready.

I use 2 short sharp blasts of the whistle, each around 1 second long. Blassssst, blasssst (you get the idea!)

When your dog is away from you, call his name, blow the whistle, & command him HERE. At the same time slowly move backwards away from your dog as if they're chasing you.

So it was, "Bandit" - 'whistle, whistle' - "Here".

The command should be high pitched, energetic & as fun sounding as possible. Use a big smile on your face at the same time. Sometimes with the little baby pups, I'll clap at the same time too & get as low to the ground as possible.

As he is coming in towards you, hold out your hand with the hot dog sausage in, palm open & low to the floor. As the dog gets his nose towards the food, tell him "YES", give him the food & give him lots, & lots, & lots of praise along with lots & lots of fuss. Give him another bit of food whilst you're fussing him. REMEMBER - you need to be acting like you've just won the lottery!!!!

I always bring the pups really close into my arms & give them big cuddles & fuss. Get a toy out & play with him. Whatever you need to do to make the pup feel like he's just won you the lottery.

Every puppy loves a cuddle of some sort

All you are doing at the moment, is teaching the dog that everytime you whistle, you are commanding him to come to you & in return he'll get some treats along with lots & lots of positive stimulation from you.

Just keep repeating this over & over again. Walk around the house & garden, every time the dog gets a few yards away from you - perform the exercise. It doesn't matter if he's just a meter or so away from you. You want him to learn that every time the whistle goes, he's expected to come into your hand & in return he'll get treats & you'll act like you've just won the lottery.

Developing the Recall

Once your dog is coming every time in the house/garden, it's now time to start to develop the recall away from the comfort of your own home. But ONLY move onto this stage once your dog is performing this exercise completely 100% of the time.

The dog now clearly understands that when you whistle, it means he's got to come & in return he'll get lots of fuss & playtimes.

The development of the recall, is where the engagement section really comes into play. When you are out & away from your home, you now need to ensure that you are engaging with your dog whilst you are walking. You need to ensure that being around you ,is MUCH more fun than for your dog than running off after a bird, another dog or other people.

Nothing over there is more fun than being here
We spoke in the Preface to this Blog about Engagement.

You can only do this by focusing 100% of your attention to your dog. So no daydreaming whilst you're walking & certainly no mobile phone conversations. If you're out with your dog, focus your time & conversations on him. Let him know that he's doing good things & make it a happy time for him. Make him want to please you, in return for loves, fuss & play times with you.

Start off by taking your dog out when there's no one around. You need to practise the recall away from the home environment but whilst there are as few distractions as possible. Simply repeat exactly the same exercises. Let your dog off the lead, & every now & again whilst he is a few meters away from you - "name" - whistle - "here"

It's now just a case of developing the recall further. Adding more distance between you & the dog before you call him back, & slowly introducing distractions. Make these developments small, don't suddenly take your dog to a field full of rabbits & expect him to recall perfectly!

The top gun dogs have all been steadily acclimatised to their environment & taught the correct behaviour steadily. Gun dogs aren't just taken to a shoot one day & expected not to chase the game - they are taught this over a period of weeks & months. They are slowly introduced to distractions, once they are performing exercises perfectly with no distractions.

You also need to do the same with your recall training. Steadily & slow progression & development.

When Things Go Wrong

Even the best trained dogs will have 'moments of madness'. I know our pups certainly have their moments. So don't panic if something doesn't quite work.

In those circumstances, always remain calm. And never do any of the following:-
  • Start blasting the whistle & continually shout your dog
  • Don't react angrily to your dog
  • If you dog does start coming back to you - DO NOT EVER scald or punish him when he returns
If he does not recall, stop calling him, don't whistle anymore & simply walk over to the dog tell him no & clip him back up on his lead. Totally ignore him whilst he is on his lead. After a little while, release him off his lead & play with him. Lots & lots of play - remember, it's you who gives him all of his fun!!

Whilst you are playing reinforce the whistle recall. Go a couple of meters away, & whistle him to you again. As soon as he comes, treat & act like he's just won you the lottery.


With all dog training, there are no shortcuts. There's no quick fix & often you will think you're taking 2 steps forward & 1 backwards. However, that is progression.

There's no substitute for practise, practise & practising. So even when you think you've mastered the recall - every time you're dog comes back, it's lottery winning time!!

Monday, 24 December 2012

PDDogBlog Christmas Message

We wanted to take this chance to wish everyone of 'Bandit's' Twitter followers & all readers of our Blog a really Happy Christmas & New Year!!

Bandit also wishes you all a very Happy Cwoofmas too!!

It's been a really great year, and the people we've met via the Twitter account has been unbelievable. We've met & spoke with some real #toptweeps and made some wonderful friends along the way too.

We didn't really know what to expect when we started the Twitter account, and I must admit that I was really sceptical of the audience we'd get to our Blog. However, we really have been overwhelmed by the support & interest we get in what we're doing with our pups. So I'm really thankful to the people who told us to get the Blog up & online!! So Chappers . . . . . get writing that book!!! ;-)

Since writing our very first Blog on the day PD Mambo left us back in January, we've now had close to 15,000 hits on the Blog! So it's a MASSIVE thanks from us to everyone who clicks on & reads our stories. I just hope you find them interesting.

PD Mambo

It's been a brilliant year for our pups Mambo & Sear too, so we should also thank their handler's & course instructors who brought them through their initial courses this year. Having 2 pups licence in the same year has been a brilliant achievement for us, & I'm dead proud of the pups too. They've done brilliantly & both of the pups joined their handler & initial courses part way through too. They had some catching up to do, with no time to bond with their handler's pre course but still managed to get through a license.

PD Sear

We've got some really exciting things planned for next year. We're working on a Retired Police Dog Benevolent fund which will hopefully materialise in 2013, we'll hopefully be getting the chance to help more dogs & owners with general advice & training tips, &. . . . .  there's also the Pro Dog Challenge coming in 2013 - which is just going to be EPIC!!

Oh yes, of course there's also the small matter of getting young Bandit through a licensing course in 2013 as well.

Keep your eyes peeled because we've got some great & exciting things planned for next year, which will hopefully be really fun & rewarding.

So we wish each & everyone of you a really great Christmas & New Year, and hope that you all have a really successful 2013!!

But before we sign off . . . .

Whilst you are enjoying your Christmas festivities, please spare a moment & a thought for all of those people who are working. It's a difficult time of year for many people, not least those families who are missing loved ones this Christmas because they are at work looking after us & our families - Nurses, Police, Fire, Ambulance & many others all sacrifice their Christmas' to help your community.

Please spare a thought for families who have brave members of their family in the armed forces working in difficult conditions. Our thoughts are also with families who are missing their loved ones this year due to them passing.

There will also be families out there who are sitting around their Christmas table with members of their family who have suffered life changing injuries. We've been really honoured to have been able to support the Pilgrim Bandits charity this year, who help service men & women who face the struggles of such injuries. Another big thank you goes to everyone who donated to the Pilgrim Bandits via our Just Giving page recently too.

There's lots to be thankful of and enjoy at this time of year, whilst also thinking about others - many of whoom are either out there or  have been out there, keeping you safe.

Merry Christmas all & a very Happy New Year!!

Here's hoping 2013 will see Bandit carry the Pilgrim Bandits name as a fully licensed Police Dog!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Fully Fledged Police Dog Sear

First off – I wish to sincerely thank every single person who sent messages of good luck to Sear (& his handler) over the past few days & for everyone who followed his progress on Twitter - quite literally from pup to PD. It’s been really great to read such lovely comments & receive all of the messages. We’ll pass them all onto his handler too. So thanks to everyone for that!!

It’s really hard to believe that it’s only been 5 months since we wrote our Fully Fledged PD Mambo Blog! I still can’t quite believe where time goes!?

However, we’re absolutely delighted to say a MASSIVE congratulations to Fully Fledged PD Sear & his handler Kieron for passing their licensing today.
Police Dog Sear & Kieron

I still can’t believe that we’ve managed to get 2 of our pups licensed in the same year – both of them joining a course part way through too! So it's been great to get both Mambo & Sear out onto the streets as fully fledged Police Dogs.

We also need to say a big thanks to Kieron for keeping our 7 year, 100% record of producing licensable Police Dogs intact too!! So no pressure Bandit & his future handler. . . .

When I got up yesterday morning I was really nervous for them both (& all of the training crew) but especially nervous for Kieron & Sear. I honestly dread to think how handlers must feel going through their assessments.  I was on tenterhooks all day & Kieron’s been absolutely brilliant (& retired Police Dog Vero!!) keeping us updated over the past couple of days licensing & all the way through their initial course.

I was lucky enough to get out on their training course & see firsthand just how well Sear had come on in his quest to become a real crime fighting Police Dog. It’s been a real credit to Kieron as his handler, but also Darren who instructed the course & structured everything so brilliantly for them both to progress & excel so well.

Sear, Peach & Pharaoh all licensed for the first time today

When I received the call that Sear was needed, I was a little emotional about him going. As I said at the time, we usually have a bit of time to mentally prepare for their departure, however we got the call on the Thursday & he went on the Saturday! But, at the end of the day, we take these pups on for a reason & all of the time & work we put into them is exactly so that there’s a dog ready & waiting to be called upon if they are needed.

Despite them being ‘our pups’ & become a major part of our family, they are bred to do a job so we always strive to the dog justice & ensure they are ready & fully equipped to go out to do their job. It is quite literally what they are born to do.

Puppy Sear

People often ask us “just how do you give them up” & I’ll be absolutely 110% honest – it is by far the hardest & most upsetting day we have with them. I’ve been doing this type of work now since 2005 & it doesn’t ever get any easier. Even after having Bandit for a relatively short time in comparison, it’ll still be heartbreaking when he goes.

However, as I’ve said before, I know that they are going to some fantastic people & that they’ll develop an indescribable bond with each other. We've been really lucky that all of our pups have gone to some real great handlers but also great people too. So I know the dogs will get a great life & be looked after.

PD Sear & Kieron

Ultimately days like today are what makes everything so worthwhile. All of the getting up at the crack of dawn, the rain, wind & snow, the trips to some of the most obscure places, the bruises, bite marks & sometimes completely unbearable stress levels we endure – just for the sake of developing the pup – all become forgotten. It such an overwhelmingly proud feeling.

So it’s been brilliant to see Sear now as a fully fledged Police Dog. However, this is where the ‘real’ work starts. He’s now got to out onto the streets to prove himself in real life. He’s got all of the training & testing in and behind him now – so we wish Kieron & Police Dog Sear the very best of luck & hope they both stay safe & have plenty of great results!

One thing I do know, I won't be taking a bite off Sear with just this on anymore. . . .

They've got a few training sessions before they'll be out on the streets. Just to give them time to have a bit of 'fun'. So there'll be lots of rough & tumble, crash, bang, wallop training over the next week or so. This gives the dogs a chance to have a bit of fun too. It's been a testing course, where the dogs & handlers are put under a lot of pressure. The dogs have had to work under a lot of control, so it's nice to give them a bit of an 'unruly' few days too.

We’ll certainly be keeping you upto date with how Sear does ‘on the streets’, and look forward to hopefully giving Bandit a similar write up soon!!

Once again a BIG congratulations to everyone who licensed today, but especially to 'our boy' PD Sear & Kieron!!


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

'Pilgrim' Bandit Blog Update

It’s been a really exciting week just gone, with some really humbling news. I want to take this opportunity to pass on our sincere thanks to the guys at the West Midlands Police Breed Scheme, who have very kindly named one of their latest litter of pups after me!!

The H litter was born just over a week ago, and as a thank you for all of our hard work we’ve put in the breed scheme over the years, they have decided to name a puppy Hib. Everyone calls me Hib as my nickname, because of my surname, so I’m absolutely chuffed to bits they’ve called one Hib.

Puppy Hib

It’s a real honour & I’m extremely grateful for their gesture. It really made my day & I'm still beaming now!!

So here’s hoping PD Hib can follow in our pup’s footsteps and go on to become a real top Police Dog. It’s a shame in a way that we couldn’t have him ourselves, but I’m sure with a bit of luck he’ll go to someone who’ll be able to develop him & do him justice!! We’ll definitely be keeping tabs on young PD Hib & will try & get as much input into him as possible, so keep your eyes peeled!!

The #iamthebandit Update

'Pilgrim' Bandit

It’s been a while since our last ‘Bandit Blog’ so we thought we’d fill you in on how Bandit is progressing & what we’ve been upto recently.

The first bit of the Blog really highlights the need & importance of engagement when you’re out with your dog.

We took a walk over to Warley Woods to meet Paul from Stratford Archery. Bandit’s really intense when he’s out. Constantly on the go, so when we’re out with him I really need to ensure he’s 110% engaged with me, because otherwise he goes off to seek out his own ‘fun’.

This is where he differs from Sear. It also shows the difference between having a pup from 6 weeks, to taking a pup on who’s that bit older who's developed a few bad habits/mannersisms.

I'm sure there's something fun out there

With Sear we could have quite happily plodded around Warley Woods chatting & talking, & I wouldn’t have had to really engage too much with Sear to keep him inline. Bandit on the other hand is a different dog altogether. Everything he does is at 1,000 miles an hour - so we couldn’t really walk around Warley Woods having a sensible chat with Paul, with Bandit happily plodding along next to us. Instead I was battling with Bandit all the way round, & sitting having a coffee with him was a nightmare!! He’s not the sort of dog to sit there and twiddle his paws whilst we sit & have a chat. So everyone & everything that came past knew PD Bandit was about!!

So I ended up putting Bandit on his lead & walked him round the Woods. It’s one of my pet (if you excuse the pun) HATES when I get another dog come running up to us, while the owner is 30-40 meters away - or even a couple of football pitches away!!! It really annoys me when I see people chatting away on their mobile phone whilst their dog is off making it’s own fun with someone else.  So with Bandit, I had to clip him up and walk with him on the lead. Because I was (trying!!) to chat with Paul, I couldn’t remain suitably engaged with Bandit to ensure he wasn’t off looking for his own fun.

Bandit fun

All in all, he was a bit of a pain in the backside whilst we were walking & chatting!! But once we’d stopped chatting & we could do a few bits in the Woods, he was absolutely fine. The reason being, I could now fully engage with him & therefore get the responses I required from him.

Engagement is one of the biggest areas for me. I’m always talking away to the dogs, hugging them, stimulating them whilst we’re out walking. Like I’ve said before, people must think I’m a nutter when I’m out!!

If Bandit sees another dog, as long as he’s engaged with me he won’t bat an eyelid. He’ll happily continue a property search with another dog in close proximity – all because he’s engaged with me & is being stimulated by what I’m asking him to do. When dog’s aren’t engaged, that’s when they’ll go off to find their own fun & stimulation.

It’s always about making sure that you are the dog’s world, you are the provider of his enjoyment. If you master that, you’ll never have a problem with your dog running off after other people or other dogs – because there’s no need for your dog to do so. He gets everything he needs & is stimulated by YOU.

I don’t ever say my dog’s are perfect – sometimes they’re a real pain in the backside, so it’s good to share that with you every now & again!!! I won’t also dwell too much on the fact Bandit is the worst ‘chewer’ we’ve had! He’s actually chewed our UPVC doorstep on the back door!!!!

Bandit the chewer! Thank heavens for the Stag Antler

So that’s the ‘naughty’ Bandit bit out of the way, now onto the good Bandit Blog.

The 'Pilgrim' Bandit Update

Those of you who follow Bandit on Twitter, will have seen that this week we’ve been spending lots of time concentrating on his tracking.

It can be a really boring exercise to train & learn, both for me & for the dogs. There’s nothing more mundane than marking out the scent track, spraying the water on the floor, then strategically placing a piece of food every couple of steps along the floor. It’s back breaking & incredibly boring. However, if there’s one thing that Bandit will need to do most - it’s using his nose.

We’ve mastered his property searching. It’s licensable now without a doubt. He’ll indicate on property & will find it whether it’s on the ground, underneath something or placed higher up on an object. I’ve said before - his nose is fantastic. I’d go so far to say that his property searching is better than Sear’s.

As you probably know, we’ve got a different challenge with Bandit. Because he’s older, we need to use a slightly different approach, compared to how we’d work with our 6 week old pups. Bandit’s also very sight orientated, so we needed to make sure he kept his head down & that he was using his nose properly when tracking. I know he can use his nose well, so it’s just making sure he understands the exercise at the moment. Tracking = head down & nose on the scent.

Bandit in his tracking harness

So everyday this past week we’ve been working on his tracking. We put out 3 tracks on the ground, and just run over the same tracks time & time again. Each time we re-spray the scent & replace the meat on the track. At the moment, we’re just conditioning Bandit to the human scent & the fact that it leads to a reward – which in this case is his ball.

Everyday he’s getting better & better. He’s learning to keep his head down & his nose on the track and the improvement from day 1 has been fantastic. I’m really pleased with how he’s going. We’ll spend another week or so, just repeating the exercises. We were using the same tracks everyday, but he’s soon figured out the game & was just rushing to the end of the track, so we’re mixed it all up now.

All in all though, the tracking has been going pretty well, he had an ‘off day’ yesterday but I put that down to the fact we were using the same track every day, so he just knew what was coming. It’s more my own fault that he had an off day than anything Bandit was doing - he's one step ahead of me!!

The clock is ticking quite quickly now and we’ve probably only got around 7 weeks left with Bandit!! I can't believe it's come round so quickly!!

Bandit growing up quickly

As we’re away in February, I don’t want him to have to go & spent a few weeks in kennels, so we’re now starting to look at potential handlers for him. Hopefully, we’ll have someone lined up who can take him on in Feb & look to get him on a course later in the year. I think an April course may come a little too quick, but I’m sure he’ll definitely be ready ability wise for one if they do need to get up & licensed quickly.

The great thing is, once again, there’s a couple of handlers starting to look at him, so I’m sure that we’ll have someone lined up for him really soon. Fingers crossed!!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Pilgrim Bandits

The Pilgrim Bandits

Many of you will know that our latest pup is named Bandit (you can follow him on Twitter too!).

He is named in honour of a fantastic charity - The Pilgrim Bandits. You will notice that every Bandit update Blog will carry the Pilgrim Bandit banner, as above.

Our last pup, Sear was named in honour of a retiring Chief Superintendant who was Commander of Operations & was in charge of the Dog Section when he retired.

It's a great honour for us having a pup who's been named in honour of someone or something. Although, it gives us a little extra pressure to make sure the pup makes it!! It will be great if Sear gets his license & then goes on to have a really successful career, as it will continue the legacy of Superintendant Sear for a few extra years.

We'll be hoping for the same with Bandit. It's not only a great honour to have Bandit, having been named after such a fantastic Charity, but it's also a fantastic way to get the Charity a little extra exposure. Police Dog jobs get some good press coverage, certainly locally, so having PD 'Pilgrim' Bandit in the news for a great job would be fantastic for everyone.

The Pilgrim Bandit's slogan is "Always a Little Further", & you can guarantee that we will also be going that little further to make sure PD 'Pilgrim' Bandit is up to the job ahead.

There's so many charities out there these days (in fact I'm working on putting something together myself in the not to distant future!), added to the fact we are continually bombarded for donations - it's hard to know who to support.
This week's Children In Need TV show raised a fantastic amount of money for Charity, which was so closely on the back of another Charity fundraising event for the Royal British Legion. Yet we are, as a whole nation, struggling day to day with a 'tough economic climate' - if I had a pound for every time David Cameron et al spouted this term I'd have raised more cash than Children In Need!!!!

The Government seem to hide behind this excuse 'tough economic climate' when making decisions on cost cutting etc, yet as a nation, the fine people of Great Britain continue to donate & raise fantastic amounts of money for Charity. We, as citizens, certainly don't hide behind the 'tough economic climate' excuse - we are at the forefront of giving & supporting our fellow citizens.

There's so many worthy causes out there to give to, & there are more and more Charities popping up, as things get tougher & tougher. You only have to look at the number of food banks popping up in the UK to realise things aren't getting any better for many people.

Sometimes, because of the number of charities & the constant requests for donations we sometimes switch off. But in doing so we can miss out on some worthwhile & fantastic Charities - non other than the Pilgrim Bandits!

We got involved in the Charity thanks to our Local Area Co-Ordinator Terry Arnett, who does a fantastic job of promoting the Charity & it's events. You can contact Terry via email.

Pilgrim Bandits

So just who are the Pilgrim Bandits & what do they do . . .

Local Area Co-Ordinator Terry Arnett with PD 'Pilgrim' Bandit

"The Pilgrim Bandits will never ask for your charity… but, we will ask for your support"

The Pilgrim Bandits were started by a group of Special Forces veterans back in 2007, with the goal of helping & inspiring wounded soldiers to live life to the full.

Very often people may forget, that it's not only the physical side to an injury, but it's also the mental side which sometimes places the obstacles in front of someone. The Pilgrim Bandits help to break down those mental barriers & give soldiers the chance to enjoy life to the full.

I've got a few friends who have been & who are in the Forces, & I know that to take away their ability to chase after a goal or challenge would absolutely destroy them. They go seeking thrills, challenges & go above & beyond what any 'normal everyday' person would do. One of my good friends is a Royal Marine, a real top lad, but . .  .we always joke he's a bit of a nutter!! Hey Stug?! But to take away that mental toughness, to stop them going out doing things above & beyond what a 'normal everyday' person would do, would completely destroy them. These people really do have something 'extra'.

It's not just about providing them with the medical care & attention they need to get back up to full fitness. Yes it plays a massive part, but the mental side, the things people enjoyed doing before their injuries is what makes a person.

"Our primary aim is to help those in need directly, with no compromise. Soon, those who needed help become those that give it.

How do we all do this? ...... The only way we know how ...... by pushing injured men and women into physically and mentally demanding situations that they would not have dreamed possible; climbing mountains, jumping from aircraft, running races, trekking across inhospitable terrain – and always a little further. 

We push those that have already endured too much to go beyond endurance – to embrace life again and in so doing inspire others."

It's wrong to single out one person connected to the Charity or one serviceman, however one person who epitomises this mantra, to me, is Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson. People talk about Hero's or Legend's a lot - to place footballers in the same 'hero' category as this man is bonkers!

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson with PD 'Pilgrim' Bandit

Ben is a Patron of the Pilgrim Bandits, & if you don't know who he is, here's a little snapshot from the Pilgrim Bandits website.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson 7 (Para) RHA lost both legs in Afghanistan and was once dubbed the most seriously injured serviceman ever to survive the battlefield. His injuries were so appalling doctors said he would never walk or talk again, however they didn’t take into account the  determination of a 26 yr old Yorkshire man who has gone on to inspire others by his achievements including carrying the Olympic torch in his home town of Doncaster.

“I’m very proud to be Patron of the Pilgrim Bandits Charity.
They don’t do sympathy and when they say get up to the top of that hill you get up there as quickly as possible ” said Ben

To watch Ben carry that Olympic flame was sensational - what a true inspiration to everyone. If there's one role model our youngsters of today could follow, they wouldn't go far wrong with this man.

Ben Parkinson carrying the Olympic torch

As well as the 'everyday' fundraising events like dinners, attending events, stalls etc, the Pilgrims go 'a little further' in their fundraising efforts. They have the 'Pilgrim Challenges' which are also very often supported by the people who the charity has supported.

Injured servicemen & women also take part in the Pilgrim Challenges too.  Here's one of the Challenges that will be done next year.

I've seen first hand what these soldiers go through when they enter back into the UK. Sarah is an Intensive Care Trauma nurse, & worked at Selly Oak & now the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She's looked after & cared for a lot of the soldiers who came back into the UK.

I would very often go over to Selly Oak & meet her for lunch or a coffee when she was on her breaks. I can honestly say, I'd walk around the place with a tear in my eye. It's unbelieveable what these people go through. Not just them, but their families & everyone connected with them. Some of the things I saw at Selly Oak, were enough to reduce a grown man to tears. No one should have to go through what those families do.

There's no way in this world, a parent of a 30+ year old man should have to sit there feeding their son because he's lost his arms. It's honestly heartbreaking. It brings a tear to my eye, just thinking about it.

The effect these injuries have on people is enormous. So many people are affected by the aftermath of an injured serviceman or woman, not just those injured & their families - even the nurses, Dr's & support staff who help try to rebuild their lives are affected. It can't not affect you.

And for that very reason, I'm honoured to have PD 'Pilgrim' Bandit & to have some connection with the Pilgrim Bandits. We'll be doing as much as we can to help support the Charity & also to help raise some funds for this Charity. We'll be working with our local Area Co-ordinator Terry Arnett to get some support for the Charity.

"Always a Little Further"

Keep your eyes peeled to Twitter - because between us & Terry Arnett there's some great things lined up!!

How much further can you go . . . .?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The 'Pilgrim' Bandit Bond

The Pilgrim Bandits
It's hard to believe that it's only been just over 3 weeks since we picked up Bandit from the Police Dog Training Centre - it seems like he's been with us for ages, yet it's still really early days for him.

If you missed the 'Bandit Story' in our previous Blogs have a read of our fist 2 Bandit Blogs:-
1. The New Project - PD Bandit
2. A Week With A Bandit

If you're new readers, you can also follow what Bandit is getting upto on Twitter.

What's made it seem like he's been here for ages is the fact that he's settled in so well & his 'work' has really come on leaps & bounds over the past couple of weeks.

Leaps & bounds quite literally

As I said in the very first 'Bandit Blog', most of our initial time was spent bonding with him & teaching him a few very simple basic commands. You really can't underestimate the need for a bond with your dog.

I'm currently reading a book at the moment by Victoria Schade it's called "Bonding With Your Dog: A Trainer's Secrets for Building A Better Relationship". In it, she makes a fantastic statement which we can relate to our working Police Dogs . . .
"As much as we'd all like to believe the romantic notion that our dogs are so bonded to us that they'd save our lives without thinking twice....Odds are, most of us will never need to know whether our dogs would give their own lives for our"

Fortunately, I'm also in the position where I would (well I certainly hope I would) never be in a position for one of dogs to have to give their life for me. However, one thing I do absolutely guarantee you, is that at some point in their lives there is an extremely strong likely hood that one of our pups WILL be put in a position where this could be a real scenario. If we were living in the States, I'd say that sadly, it was a certainty that at some point in their working lives the dogs would definitely be in a position like this.

That's the sort of bond with a dog you can never test as 'normal' dog owners. When I talk about having a bond with our dogs, I can't even begin to replicate the bond they'll eventually have with their handlers. It's an unexplainable bond between dog & handler who put their lives on the line together, day in, day out, to help keep people safe - whether it be Police or Military. You just don't get that sort of bond with your dog as a 'normal' dog owner.

One of my favourite photos

Some people may wonder why I read so many 'dog' related books. However, thinking that you know everything or thinking that you have 'mastered' the art of dog training is a real danger. People who have worked with & studied dogs for 50+ years still manage to learn new things. So I'm always reading books, attending seminars & watching other trainers - in a bid to continually raise the bar in terms of the quality & ability of our pups. It makes me smile when people put themselves out as 'the best'.

Building a bond is a natural occurrence when we have a baby 6 week old puppy. It's something which develops over time. At the start of their life, we are the puppy's world, we are the sole provider of everything for that puppy, so building a strong bond is, to some extent, easy & comes naturally.

With Bandit it was a little different. We had a 5 & a bit month old pup that had been to a couple of people & had been in & out of the Training Centre kennels. So it was important that we purely concentrated on building a bond. We needed to know that we could trust Bandit & that he could also trust us. So the first week I had him, he came everywhere with me. We'd be out 3 or 4 times a day just playing in the park & acting stupid together. To some degree I let him carry on his 'tear away' antics & just let him be a puppy. He needed to know that together we can have fun.

Bandit loves nothing more than to have a run

So having built a really nice bond with Bandit, we were ready to start the next phase of his development. I try to make things as fun & positive as possible, but the overriding factor for me, as to why our pups do so well, is that they actually want to do what we're asking them to do. The overriding reason they want to work for us, is to please us. I'm now at a point where I can ask Bandit to do the 5 basic everyday commands, & he'll do it with the reward of simply pleasing me. Naturally however, I still reward him with his toys like it's the very first time he's ever performed the exercises, but if I wanted to he'd get plenty of reward simply from me.

Giving him plenty of fuss, loves, cuddles & telling him he's a good boy in a high pitched ridiculous voice, gives him enough of a reward to enjoy performing his tasks. Had I not built such a strong bond with him, we just wouldn't have that sort of working relationship.

Bandit - 3 weeks on

Having concentrated on teaching Bandit some basic manners & some basic commands, he's soon mastered them.

The sit, down, stay, out & recall, all form the basis of pretty much every exercise he'll ever do in his 'Police Work'. There's obviously the more practical exercises like biting, searching, tracking etc - but without having a steady & strong foundation we can't even to begin to move onto these exercises.


So the first 2 weeks were spent on the basics, & he's picked them up brilliantly! We've got a really great foundation to work on, which has meant we can move onto exercises which challenge & stimulate him even more.

That said, every single day we'll still work on his 5 basic commands. Throughout our sessions, he'll get lots of sits, downs, waits etc etc so that we're constantly getting them better & better. We make his waits, longer & longer & we are starting to put some distance between us when we're doing his sits & downs etc. His distance control is really coming on.

The past week we've really concentrated on his property searching, & he's picked it up amazingly well! I'd go so far as to say that he works his nose on a property search better than Sear. You can see him pick up the sent in the wind, & he zig zags in all the way to the article. It's absolutely brilliant to watch!! I'd actually say that he has a basic licenseable property search now.

I noticed how he searched during the first couple of weeks, if he lost or dropped his ball & I sent him to find it, you could see the way he worked with his nose.

When we look at property searching as an exercise, it's vitally important that the we are in control of our pups & that they understand the clicker. Having distance control over the pup means we can eventually get him to down over the property. Without having distance control & the dog having a strong down command, we just could train the property search effectively. It's a matter of 'chaining' exercises together to produce the final result. A property search is also a prime example of using building blocks to complete a full exercise. (Chaining & building block is a whole new Blog topic in itself!!)

Waiting until he can fetch his ball

I love watching dogs work with their nose, there's nothing better. I know people love watching criminal work & seeing dogs bite etc but for me watching them work their nose is amazing. It's the most powerful tool a dog has - when you look at what they can find & where they can find it - it's absolutely fascinating.

I spend lots & lots of time working with the dog's noses. It plays a massive part of their day to day working life. Most of their operational work & most of the best Police Dog results have come from their nose. Being able to find people whether criminal or vulnerable where people have tried & failed to find them - it's just the best!!

As his property searching is so great, we've started to make things a little bit trickier for him. We've started to hide property under things, up trees & inside holes etc, so that he needs to start searching a variety of areas & not just the ground. We've only started doing this over the past couple of days, so it's early days, but already he's starting to think about looking in other areas to try to locate the scent.

What's Next

We're still working on his manners in the house, although he's got 100 times better already.

He still takes a while to settle in the house in the evening, but he's starting to learn that he needs to switch off as well. These dogs aren't family pets, they are high drive, energetic dogs, so it's easy for them to be 'on the go' all the time if you let them. With the work we're doing during the day/evening he also needs to time to rest, relax & recharge his batteries for the next day. So it's important for him to rest & chill out at the right time too.

Chilling by the sofa

He also is starting to learn that when we're preparing our food it's not his cue to try to steal it!!! But again, he's getting better. It's just a matter of taking your time & reinforcing the behaviour you want him to show. You can't expect him not to steal food if you only prepare food once or twice a day. It'll take a long time for him to learn not to jump up, if he only gets a single opportunity once or twice a day.

So I'm spending lots of time, putting food out on our kitchen surface, leaving it at the edge so that he can smell it & telling him no. We're doing lots of repetitions so that the penny drops that food on the counter is not his!! I'll put his food dish outside to feed him, & make him wait until I say it's OK to dive in & eat it.

Not everything on the kitchen surface is his

Again, he's doing really well. You don't have to watch him every single second with eyes in the back of your head. But you do have to 'remind him' that it's not his food now & again.

'Work' wise, we're going to continue to develop his property searching, and we're now starting to introduce him to tracking. I don't tend to teach tracking & property searching together as it can become confused. It can cause the dog to try to track to a piece of property, or open search for a track. Eventually he'll need to combine both exercises together, but until he's got a solid property search & a solid track we keep them completely separated.

Now he completely understand the property exercises we can move onto tracking. I always use a tracking harness, so that he gets a clear association that having the harness on, indicates a completely different exercise to a property search.

So these next few weeks will concentrate mainly on tracking. We'll still also continue to do property searches & continue to enhance his over control & basic commands.

I must also say a MASSIVE thank you to Sandwell Council too. This week they have sorted us out with some facilities which will really help us work with Bandit & develop him. It's invaluable having the support of local communities, whether it be allowing pups into places of work, using factories or building sites & visiting hotels etc, all of which play such a crucial part in a puppy's development. The more places we can work in & train our dogs makes them more successful & ultimately play a better part in keeping those communities safe.

Bandit's doing really really well, & I'm really pleased with how he's progressing. Most of all he is a REALLY lovely dog!! His overall nature is great (when he finally switches off,) & he's been great around my nieces & nephews too. Most of all he's absolutely brilliant with Taylor.

Added to that . . . I'm also regularly told 'how cute' he looks!!

Bandit's 'camera pose'

Sear Update

Sorry for the very long winded Blog!!! But I couldn't sign off without giving you all an update on Sear.

I went out with his training crew last week, to see how he was getting on & it also gave me a chance to work against him!! So this time I was on the other end of the lead, with him & his handler bearing down on me!!

He's doing brilliantly, I'm absolutely over the moon with how well him & his handler are doing. Initially the plan was for him to run alongside an initial course & look to license early in the New Year, however he's doing so well the instructor is looking to license him before the end of the Year.

It would be absolutely brilliant if he did get his licence this side of the New Year, as it would also mean that 2 of our pups would have been licensed in the same year. Hopefully by the end of 2012 we'll be celebrating a fully licensed PD Sear working alongside PD Mambo!!

PD Mambo

I'm in touch with Sear's handler loads & he's really settled in with his other 2 dogs - & even shares his kennel with a Spaniel.

We'll keep you posted on how both Bandit progress & how Sear's course goes - there's still a long way to go, so keep everything crossed!!