Winners of 'Public Choice' Award

Monday, 28 May 2012

Training Phases - Phase 1

This past week's hot weather has given us a timely break in Sear's training. It's important to be acutely aware of dogs & the dangers of heatstroke, so we completely stayed away from any real training while it's been so hot.

We've kept 'ticking over' on our leisurely walks but nothing overly strenuous or heart pounding.

I've been so glad to see so many Tweets about not leaving dogs in cars during this weather too.


Dogs Die In Hot Cars!!
It's frightening to think about leaving dogs in cars - and there are some really frightening statistics:

  • A car can reach nearly 50 degrees in less than ten minutes
  • A dog can die after just 20 minutes - even with the window open
Don't do it!! If you are taking your dog out & you need to leave him in the car - do you really need to take him with you?! That trip could potnetially kill him . . . .

Training Phases


We always break our training down into phases & blocks, everything we do - we completely break down. It's an effective training method & one which gets constant tweaking as we search for the 'best' results. Every single exercise is initially broken down into tiny blocks before putting them altogether (chaining) to produce the finished article.

We're aiming to write a Blog on 'chaining' when training dogs - so keep your eyes peeled on that one!

Property searching is a prime example as to how we do this. Initially we get the pups to go & 'search' for the item. We're not overly fussed about what they do when they 'find' it, initially it's all about them realising they have to use their nose to locate items.

Once they've mastered the searching & finding, we start to develop & shape the behaviour to ensure the dog doesn't 'interfere' with the item once he's located it.

In the video here - Sear is 12 weeks old. We haven't yet developed his 'indication' so he just freezes

After we've got him finding items, we then shape how we want the dog to 'indicate' on the property in different scenarios. For example, Sear will now indicate on items on the floor by lying down with the property close to his paws - if the property item is located off the floor ie on a fence, Sear will indicate by sitting.

Every single excercise is broken down to shape each part of the dogs behaviour, until the point comes where they are doing everything exactly as we want them too.

Sear is just over 5 months old, and we now move into the 'Second Phase' of his training to become a fully fledged Police Dog - this is where the real work starts!

A question we get asked a lot is "When will he actually go & start his training?" - and the very simple answer is - "he already is". We've been training & developing his Police Dog skills since the day we had him.

Police dog training isn't just about teaching a dog to bite, follow a track, find people etc, they need to be confident within any environment. I've seen Police Dogs fail initial licensing courses because they are scared of the dark or they won't walk on a wet, slippy surface. So it's vitally important that the dogs experience as much as they can in their early lives.

It's relatively easy to train a dog all of the ACPO specified exercises, however to get a dog over a phobia (like hating slippery floors) is a really hard thing to do. So the environmental work is absolutely the most important thing we can do with our dogs.

Like I said in our 'Puppy Walking Blog', all that is really expected of people bringing up pups as part of a puppy walking scheme, is “for the puppy walker to hand over a well-balanced, confident and social dog at the end of the year.”

Phase 1

Everyone who has seen Sear's YouTube channel will have seen just how far he has progressed from a training point of view over the past few months.

However, what we haven't captured is the 'environmental' based training we do over that time as well.

We have to remember that Sear is still a baby really. At 5 months old he's still really young & whilst we do lots of training with our pups - we also let them be pups.

It's nice when they are naughty (within reason!!) and I never put any control into them via compulsion. Everything we do is positive play orientated - the dog doesn't even realise it's 'training' cause it's always part of a bigger game.

It's sometimes easy to forget just how young they are when they're completing exercises you see adult dogs struggle with - & I must admit sometimes I do have to reign myself in now and again!

So what do we cover in the first Phase of his training?

The most critical thing I do with the pups is to develop a really strong bond with them. It really is the most crucial part of what we do.

Whenever we pick up a new pup, I always have at least 10 days where I'm not working & just spend the time with the new pup. I put most of our success with the pups down to this - the bond.

Never underestimate the impact a strong bond with the dog has. He'll gain confidence and reassurance from you, so if there's something he's not that keen on, he'll draw the confidence to complete the exercise from you. Ultimately the pup will want to do anything he can to please me.



Sear on a bench at train station
Most of our training initially surrounds the pups getting used to the sounds, sights & experiences of every day life. The first month of the dogs life with us, is the most important.

As a result we put lots of time into taking the pups to all sorts of places - we literally take them to somewhere different  & obscure everyday. Train stations, bus stations, busy high streets, shops, schools, car garages - literally anywhere we can expose the pup to all sorts of weird & wonderful things. And believe me - in Birmingham & The Black Country there are lots!!

Everyday they are walked around these places, up & down staircases, in lifts, escalators. We put them on top of uneven surfaces, shiny floors, wet floors, slippy floors - trying to create the types of scenarios they'll experience in their working lives. It's very rare a dog will have to track & detain a person across a beautifully kept field in Birmingham!


Sear on a staircase
Alongside the daily environmental work, we also start to teach the pups everything you'd expect to teach your pet dog.

Toilet training, crate training, sit, stay, lie etc etc - all of which are essential in progression to 'Police Dog' training exercises. For any dog the most important 5 commands are SIT, LIE, STAY, HEEL & HERE - if you can master these commands at home & while you are out walking your dog, you will very rarely go wrong & hopefully have a trouble free dog.

All of our training is done through high drive, reward based play - all done using a clicker.

At 10-12 weeks old we've got a fully toilet trained pup, sleeping through the night who will sit, lie and recall pretty much every time. The heel & stay take a little longer.

Another great follow on Twitter and for dog stuff generally is @leerburg . Some of the work Michael Ellis does with his pups is the benchmark for us. I was feeling quite smug about what we'd got Sear to do - until we saw Michael Ellis' video on YouTube recently!!

Once we've mastered the basic obedience commands - we start to move onto the more 'Police Dog' orientated exercises. Property searching, control work, bite work, more advanced heel work & human scent tracking. We play lots & lots of hide & seek games - if I could reccomend one game to play with your dog, any dog even your pet dog . . it's Hide & Seek!!

You can see a lot of the work we've done on our YouTube Channel

We'll then work on these exercises & develop their behaviour during their daily walks. It becomes that much of a routine - the pups don't even realise their practising everyday. It just becomes part of those fun & enjoyable daily regular walks.

In addition, we do also take the pups out for 'focussed' sessions. So we'll go out and specifically work on one thing i.e property searches or tracking individually - these sessions have lots of repetitions. Again, this ensures that we are developing the dog & shaping his behaviour in each exercise.

We also do some very light & basic agility work - however one thing we have to be REALLY careful of is the fact that the pups are young, growing dogs. So we avoid any kind of heavy stress on their joints. We're not testing whether the dog can get over something, we're shaping the behaviour around what he does when he jumps over something. It's only about 1ft high, but we're concentrating on making sure the dog acts in the right way.

We're not assessing how hard the dog bites, how long he tracks for or how high he can jump. All we're instilling into the dog is the fact that he learns, knows & masters the correct behaviour in each exercises.

Where are we now


With Sear we've now instilled the exercises & developed his general basic ability. 



No more baby teeth left
His baby teeth have now completely fallen out - so we don't need to worry about his mouth hurting. Again, like his joints, his mouth/teeth are also an important factor in the type of bite development work we do. We don't want him to hurt his mouth or associate bite work with painful or uncomfortable feelings - as this will have a real negative impact and could quite possibly turn the pups off biting completely.

At 5 months old - Sear can pretty much complete most of the exercises stated in the ACPO Licensing Manual. He'll track, locate property, bite, walk to heel etc etc. However, what we now need to do is develop his 'Police Dog' skills.

We move into Phase 2 - and this is where the fun really starts . . . .

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Police Puppy Walking

Before I go on, let me make this absolutely clear. This isn’t a ‘marketing Blog’ for people to rush out and sign up as Police Puppy Walkers. Anyone who knows me will know that:- 
  • I never, ever 'sugar the pill
  • I'll always tell you as it is
  • Anything within our Blogs are absolutely 100% truth based on experiences we've encountered
  • Sometimes people find us 'too honest'
However, Forces are absolutely desperate for people to sign up to their Puppy Walking Schemes, so if you think you may be able to help out please contact your local force!
I’ll make no apologies on the length of this Blog, because hopefully it will give people a real & deep insight into what is involved in being a Police Puppy Walker.
So, if you’ve decided to help your local force & want to know whether or not it’s right for you, please do stick with it . . .

Police Puppy Walking Schemes

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a lot of UK forces appealing for ‘Puppy Walkers’ – including most recently West Midlands Police & South Yorkshire Police.
Police Dogs are an important member of the Police Force and are a great asset to any force; as such many forces have turned to breeding their own dogs. Historically forces relied heavily on donations from members of the public or plucking dogs from rescue centres. However, long gone are the days when a Police Dog was simply a ‘lank shark’ on a lead that no-one could get near.
Police Dogs now have a vital role to play, and therefore the demands on the dogs have increased. Not only do they need a fantastic ‘work mode’ they also need to be sociable in the right environment. Lots of dogs are now used for missing person searches, so it’s no good having a dog that just wants to bite anything & everything in sight.
Paul Glennon, from Devon & Cornwall Police did a press release in December 2011, about the very nature of the changing role of Police Dogs
So, with this in mind, the bringing up of future Police Dogs is vitally important. Not only do they need a fantastic work ethic and ability, they also need to be raised in an environment which also encourages a good mix of ability, sound temperament, bravery, determination & confidence.
As a result of the changing use of Police Dogs, many forces started breeding their own dogs, mainly because of the advantages a.) from a planning point of view but also b.) to ensure that the stock of dogs was of a high quality.
Dave Raymond, runs a fantastic Breed Scheme at West Midlands Police, which has a really high reputation amongst other forces not only in the UK but across the World. West Mids Police supplies dogs to all forces across the UK and have also sent dogs to work worldwide. What Dave doesn’t know about puppies isn’t worth knowing!

The Kennel Club recently commended the breed scheme at West Midlands Police, as they were accepted into the Kennel Club's Assured Breeder Scheme - a clear testament to the work Dave Raymond is doing.

Litters born into the West Midlands Police Breed Scheme
 As a result of Forces breeding their own dogs, they needed people to look after their puppies & nurture them through their young lives - before they embark upon their life as a Police Dog. This saw the creation of Police Puppy Walking Schemes. Many people will have no doubt heard about the extensive Guide Dog Puppy Walking scheme.
It’s a common known fact that the most important part of a dog’s life is it’s puppy hood. All of the dogs experiences within it’s early life as a puppy will shape it’s behaviour for the rest of it’s life.
The main principles and objectives behind Puppy Walking Schemes, was to allocate puppies from the age of 6-8 weeks to people who would be able to give the puppy the very best of starts in life. To allow the puppy to grow up as a puppy and experience everything a well rounded dog would be expected to have experienced. Things like; traffic, different types of people – young, old, tall, short, different floor surfaces, places like bus stations, train stations, shopping centres.

In essence, allowing the dog to grow up in a happy, carefree environment but most importantly an environment without any fears.
Devon & Cornwall Police state that the aim of their Puppy Walking Scheme is “for the puppy walker to hand over a well-balanced, confident and social dog at the end of the year.”
Here’s a selection of forces describing the role of a Puppy Walker:-

Devon & Cornwall Police Force

So there’s the Background information, now here comes the real ‘What It’s Like to Be A Puppy Walker’ information . . . .





The Trials & Tribulations of A Police Puppy Walker

After reading my recent Blog on Beagles, you may slowly be thinking that I am slightly mad. Not only have we got a typical mischievous Beagle, I also bring home a new German Shepherd puppy every 9-12 months!
So, just why do I put myself - & not only myself, but my family too - through the trials & tribulations of this mad world of puppies & their training?
Well, quite simply I am mad – Dog Mad!
I get a real buzz out of the things people train dogs to do. I’m fascinated by the roles & jobs dogs are employed to do – Guide Dogs, Assistance Dogs, Police Dogs, Schutzhund Dogs, Gun Dogs, Agility Dogs, Obedience Dogs - and even Dancing Pudsey Dogs!! I’m not just a dog owner, I’m a dog enthusiast! (I’m keeping everything crossed for something we’re working on, on this front too – which we’ll hopefully have some fantastic things coming up.)
Anyway, getting a 6 week old pup & helping to turn it into a dog who’s going to do a job & make someone’s life better, is the ultimate for me. Seeing my pups out there in the big wide world working – just gives me the most amazing sense of achievement and such a proud feeling. It’s indescribable – the rewards are massive to me.
 However, let’s make one thing absolutely clear . . . . it’s an unbelievably hard, demanding & at times painstakingly stressful thing we do to ourselves each year!
Puppies waiting for allocation
I still remember bringing our very first 6 week old GSD home. I’d thought to myself – “I’ve had dogs all my life, I’d like to think I knew a fair bit about dogs, so really, how hard could it be having a puppy for a bit?” Let me tell you the answer to that question (Politely) now . . . . . . extremely hard!!
We hadn’t just brought this little puppy home with us – we’d brought the dog equivalent of an Olympic athlete home with us. This was no King Charles Spaniel or lazy Bulldog – this was a highly driven, athletic, working line puppy. This dog has been specifically bred for it’s working ability & genetics. It’s like comparing Jim Royle & Usain Bolt!!
As I’m driving home with this puppy, which is quite literally screaming the back of the car down – the parting words from Dave Raymond are still ringing in my ears “remember this dog isn’t a pet – it’s a working dog”. To this very day, I always have these words in my head.
PD Ari - 15 weeks old
If you think having a puppy Police Dog is going to be a good way to have a ‘little cute puppy’ running around your house – seriously, please, think again!

It’s anything but, a pet.

Watch out Puppy about!

We’re a little bit different in terms of our puppy walking duties, in that (I think) we definitely go above & beyond what would normally be expected from Puppy Walkers. So for anyone who is watching & following our video training diaries please do not be put off. You’re not expected to teach the dog property searching, tracking or any other advanced exercises found in the ACPO Manual.
As previously mentioned, you’re mainly providing the dog with a stable & suitable environment to grow up whilst getting accustomed to the sounds, smells and sights of everyday life. 
Teaching the dog basic commands, toilet training & taking it to schools, shops, bus stations etc etc

Easy - right???

What no one seems to highlight is the fact that your life is quite literally going to be turned upside down!

Even for us now, before we get our new ‘project’ we have to plan things like our holidays, is the garden re-puppy proofed, is the house re-puppy proofed, what’s our work schedule like, who’s looking after the puppy on this particular day etc etc.
The puppies can’t be left for any time longer than 4 hours as a maximum; we very rarely leave our baby pups longer than 2 hours. It takes planning & flexibility.
So you collect your puppy & bring it home. You have just introduced a bundle of cute looking fluff into your home – so please be prepared for this innocent cute puppy chewing anything it can it’s teeth into & generally causing mayhem! Wires, cupboards, tables, shoes and the one thing every puppy walker will tell you about . . . . . . the ankles!!
There is no more painful thing in the world than those little needle teeth clamping round the back of your calf!!
If you have any nice ornaments, rugs or cushions – you’ll need to move them too. Don’t leave ANYTHING lying around whatsoever.
When I say we’ve learned the hard way, I can honestly tell you that we have . . .
A selection of things our very first puppy PD Pace did


 You can't leave ANYTHING unattended for even a second! I'd only had my PSP 2 days!! 
Next up is the small matter of toilet training – the whole of our downstairs at home is either tiled or has wooden flooring. In the last 2 years we've completely redone our lounge, kitchen & garden!

The use of a crate is absolutely imperative for this, (check out our Blog here) but even so, you WILL have accidents. So be prepared to be mopping all kinds of things from your carpet, tiles or wooden floors.
Once you’ve puppy proofed your house & mastered the toilet training, you’ve now got a puppy who’s grown a bit and starting to develop a ‘bit of character’. No more sleep, toilet, eat, toilet, sleep routines for the pup now. You have got an active athlete of a dog you now need to occupy & entertain – and if you don’t – they’ll just occupy themselves, usually in a way which isn’t very good!
As I said before these are no normal pet puppies, they are highly driven, athletic & energetic puppies which need stimulation. Don’t expect them to sit in the corner or sleep all the time – they are literally into EVERYTHING!

Other Dogs in the House?

Taylor's view point coming across
I’m sure if Taylor could talk, he’d give you his opinion of what it’s like to have a puppy brought into his home every year. However, being as he can’t, I’ll let you know myself.
There isn’t one puppy we’ve had who hasn’t hassled, harassed, bitten, fought & generally annoyed Taylor. Pretty much every one of them has, at some point, had Taylor’s whole head in their mouth too! Fortunately it’s only ‘play’ and not serious aggression. However, we are extremely lucky with Taylor & his temperament.
So if you have dogs already in your house think carefully. Again, the very nature of GSD’s is be dominant and will want to try and become pack leader of your other dogs.
Taylor being bullied - again
Fortunately, Taylor is so laid back & sociable that he really doesn’t care too much about the antics involved with living alongside a trainee Police Dog. In fact, I’m absolutely convinced that he’d be extremely lonely now if he went back to a single dog in the house.
That said, he is a much more playful dog when there isn’t a Police Dog around trying to steal anything he’s got! Taylor is now 8 years old, so we are really thinking about whether it’s fair for him to be play fighting with young, athletic & boisterous GSD Police Dogs every day.

Trials & Tribulations

When I say that the puppies are stressful, they really are. We’ve had all kinds of ‘incidents’ with our pups over the years. Here’s a few highlights (or lowlights??):-
  • Day 1 of bringing a pup home – he quite literally attacked his cage the very first time he was in it! In the process, he broke a tooth & one other was hanging out. We had a trip to the vets on day 1 – to remove the said tooth!
  • We’ve had a WHOLE kitchen destroyed by one of our pups (as you saw above!) – you simply cannot take your eyes off them for a minute!
  • 
    Garden completely destroyed
    A settee has been completely wrecked too.
  • Our garden has been completely turned into a mud bath. (we now ban our dogs from the grass!)  
  • We’ve had illnesses, injuries & really worrying periods of time with the dogs – just as you would with your own pet dog.
  • Brand new ‘comfy’ dog beds have lasted literally minutes before being completely destroyed. 
  • One pup knocked our nephew over and then thought it was a great idea to ‘play’ with his hair! The same dog also learned to scale our garden fence. He broke pretty much every fence panel in our garden & was very often ‘found’ in the next door neighbour’s garden. In fact I could write a whole book about this pup and his antics – to say he was the most demanding & hard work would be an understatement! He was such a handful that Sarah, couldn’t take him out on her own.
These dogs are extremely demanding, and you need lots of time and patience in your role as a Puppy Walker.

Recommendations

If you’re thinking of becoming a puppy walker but answer no to these questions, I would seriously reconsider:-
  • Have you had dogs before?
  • Are you at home most of the day & are able to ensure the dog is not left for more than 4 hours?
  • Are you patient, resilient & flexible?
  • Are you able to take your puppy out to many different places, at different times of the day - light & dark?
  • Are you prepared for your house & garden to be seriously affected by a puppy?
  • Will your family life & family members (inc dogs/cats) allow you to have a dog without adversely affecting yours or their lives?

Overview

If you’ve read everything above, can answer yes to most of the questions above, and are still keen & interested in becoming a Puppy Walker then that is fantastic news.
If you’ve not been put off by anything above and you are ‘up for a challenge’, then I can honestly assure you that you will have great fun in your role as a Puppy Walker.
We’ve had the most rewarding time as puppy walkers, and to see a 6 week old baby grow into a fully fledged and licensed Police Dog is indescribable.
It’s one of the most challenging, yet rewarding things we do.

You'll see how much we do with our dogs & how much fun we have if you are following us on Twitter. We've had some great fun & love watching our dogs progress. We've decided to also keep a video diary of our training on YouTube too.

We've been really lucky that every single one of our pups has gone on to become fully fledged Police Dogs. The good far outweighs the bad!

You've Been Warned

However, I couldn’t end the Blog without mentally preparing you for what comes at the end of the puppy walking period.
Having seen your puppy grow from a 6 week old pup, having overcome all of the trials & tribulations, survived the stressful periods and put up with so much disruption - there comes the time for the puppy to be handed back. At this point your puppy is well behaved, obedient, and a pleasure to own too – you’ve done all that hard work, put up with all the crap (literally!!) and now it’s time for them to go!!
I can quite honestly say, it’s the worst day of my life when we have to give our dog back. The dog has become part of our family, and I don’t, for one minute believe anyone who says to me “it’s just a dog”. I’ve had my fair share of Police Dogs now and I will honestly tell you ‘D-Day’ doesn’t get any easier. I know of fully grown men in tears, handing their dogs back – it really is heartbreaking.
However, if you read my very first Blog on here you’ll completely understand where the dog is going & what he’s going to do. This really does help you get over the ‘D-Day’ blues and we have always swapped our dogs over on the same day, which means we simply don’t get time to mope about!
As soon as our fully trained dog has been given back, we start all over again with an untrained, toilet machined, crying & destructive puppy . .  . like I said at the start – DOG MAD!!
If you’re making the jump into Puppy Walking – good luck!!! It’ll be the best thing you ever do!
But please, please, please remember – in the wise words of Dave Raymond - “these are not pet dogs, they’re working dogs”

Who to Contact

If you are looking at taking the next step, the best thing to do is to contact your Local Police Force Dog Unit, who'll be able to let you know if they have any dogs available.
For anyone looking to help out West Midlands Police you can download an application form or - you can contact Dave Raymond or Terry Arnett.

See the latest plea for puppy walker's from West Midlands Police

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Diamond Dogs


For those who may not have seen this before, here is a Blog posted by PC Richard Stanley of West Midlands Police, who conducted an 'interview' with one of our dogs PD Mambo. This was done back in December 2011.

Mambo is now about 1-2 weeks away from finishing his initial course, and will soon (touch wood) be out patrolling the streets of the West Midlands as a fully licenced Police Dog.

PC Stanley writes some great Blog's all about Policing and are a definite recommended read.
He is also a regular 'Tweeter' so be sure to follow him on Twitter too - http://twitter.com/#!/pcstanleywmp

Here's the link to the actual Blog post & all of Rich's other Blogs.
http://pcstanleywmp.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/diamond-dogs/

We get asked lots of questions about the training Police Dogs go through & their life as a fully licenced Police Dog. Hopefully this gives you a little bit more information . . .

Diamond dogs…

Meet The BeatPolice Dog Mambo, Force Dog Unit

I’ve been excited about this Meet The Beat interview ever since I was able to get in touch with Mambo, one of our trainee police dogs, last month. I knew that he was keen on Twitter (he’s got his own account) and so thought he’d make a good candidate to answer a few questions about his role.

As you’ll read below, he hasn’t let us down and I think he’s a very, very good boy for taking the time out from his busy schedule to tell us what he gets up to with the Police Dog unit!


Mambo shows off his impressive tongue

Hello there, who’s a good boy?

I just hope this gets translated from ‘woof’ to human well, and there are no misquoted remarks like you see when a footballer does interviews for a local hometown reporter in his native country when away on international duty. . . . .

So you’re training to be a police dog, how long have you been training for and what does your training involve?

I’m now nearing the end of my initial training phase. I’ve been with my puppy walker since I was 6 weeks old, and am now 11 months old. I’ll be going to a dog handler in January when I’ll be 12 months old. Hopefully I’ll be starting an initial licensing course in February, which lasts up to 12 weeks.

The initial part of my training is all about ‘environmental’ development, so going to places like shopping centres, train stations, building yards – all the places I might end up having to work in/search when I’m older. I need to be used to the noises, smells, floor surfaces, dark spaces etc of all these types of places, so they don’t ever ‘spook’ me when I’m working. We do a lot of work inside of old disused buildings.

Along the way I’m taught basic commands like any other normal dog like sit, lie, wait etc. Unfortunately though no shake a paw or roll over! I’m also taught to bark and also taught heelwork.

We also work on my agility, bite work and nose development, so will be taught how to get over things, bite correctly, find items and follow a track. It’s then all about developing these skills ready for allocation to a handler – where hopefully I’m not far off being a fully licensable dog at the age of 9-12 months.

The aim is to hit the licensing course with all the skills, main training and attributes already installed. Hopefully when I start the course I can already do all the exercises to a high standard, and it’s then just about working with my new handler to fine tune my skills and respond to situations in the way he/she would want me to out on the street.

My current dad been developing puppy Police Dogs for just over 5 years, so he’s now into a great routine with us all, to get us up to speed and ready for a course. All of his dogs have gone onto be fully licensed Police Dogs, so fingers crossed I keep up the good record! PD Cooper holds the record for the fastest completion of an initial licensing course – completing a 12 weeks course in just over 5 weeks! No pressure . . . . .

Have you always wanted to be a police dog? Did it take long to apply and did you get any help filling in the application form?

I’ve always wanted to be a full Police Dog – it’s in my genes and I was literally born to do this job!

The breeding scheme at West Midlands Police is run by Dave Raymond, who has created a leading and highly commended breed scheme throughout the UK. We supply dogs to Forces all over the UK and Worldwide – our dogs have even gone to places like the Seychelles & into Samsung HQ to work.

Fortunately no forms ever need filling out by me – it’s all about my performance!!

What’s an average day like for a police dog? Are there different roles you can specialise in?

Every day is different just like for ‘human’ police officers. Some days you could be at a football match keeping a large group in order, other days chasing after a burglar or searching for a missing person.

Within the dog section itself there are various roles; general purpose (which is what I will be), explosive search dogs, drugs search dogs, cash and firearms detection dogs and also cadaver (body/blood detection) dogs. @WMPcsidogsmithy is a cadaver dog, also known as a CSI dog.

Mainly German Shepherds are used for GP (General Purpose) work, with Springer Spaniels used for the search – but we do have other types of dogs within the section like Malinois, Labrador/Retrievers, along with a 12 month old Rottweiler “Russ” who’s currently in the early stages of his development.

How can dogs help human police officers? What sort of jobs do you get called to?

Dogs can help human Police Officers as their heightened sense of smell is much better than humans. This means we are able to easily pinpoint small amounts of a trained scent. This could be a person’s scent, drugs, explosives etc.

Dogs are MUCH quicker than humans and much more agile which means we are better at chasing & catching criminals – despite the large amount of people who still think they can run away from us!!

Dogs are also able to use their nose to follow someone, instead of a human using their eyes; if they are no longer in sight a human would have effectively lost that person. But dogs can track them from the footsteps whether this be on the grass or concrete, so even though we can’t see them we still know where they have been and more importantly where they have stopped. Dogs are brilliant for a presence at public order situations like football matches or more recently in the riots.

We can often deter and disperse large volatile crowds on our own, where sometimes it would take 3/4/5 or more human officers – mainly because most people do not wish to have 42 teeth planted on them!

What’s your shift pattern like? Do you have to work nights?

We work the same shifts as human officers, providing 24 hour cover to the force.

What are your favourite parts about your role and the job in general?

Ultimately my job is, actually, just one big game for me. Whether it be chasing after a bad guy or tracking a missing vulnerable person – it’s all part of the game. Even in riot and public order events, although it can be scary for our human Officers, to us it is just another big game.

Added to the fact I’m out at ‘work’ playing with my best mate [my handler] – life just couldn’t be better.

Is there anything you don’t like about your job or is there anything you’d change?

It’s not great when you see & hear of fellow PD’s (or Police Officers for that matter) being injured or killed in the line of duty – however we are there to ‘Serve & Protect’ whether that be the general public or paying the ultimate price to save our handler’s life.

One good way to annoy a Police Dog is to harm (or threaten to harm) his handler – and vice versa!!

What’s it like travelling in the back of a police car at high speed? Are you ever allowed to drive?

As part of our development we spend lots of time in the car – although the speed thing is not something we can get used to until we’re with a Police handler.
I’ll be going out with my potential new handler to get me used to the car at high speed and the hustle & bustle of the blues & twos.

Unfortunately we’re never allowed to drive, although we may sneak into the front seat when no ones looking!

How many hours a week do you spend doing paperwork?

Absolutely ZERO although my handler may have a little bit to do – but for me none . . . . it’s a dog’s life!!

Sit!

What would you say has been the most memorable thing you’ve done or been involved with since you joined the police? I know you’re still in training, have you had a chance yet to bite a criminal’s ankles?

I’ve had a very memorable (some might say eventful!) puppy hood. I’ve had to have one of my claws taken out after slicing it pretty much off on some litter in our local Woods. And more recently I had to have a tooth taken out – although neither events have adversely affected my performance.

I’ve not yet had the chance to bite any criminals, it’s all sleeve work at the moment – but when the time comes I’m sure I’ll be ready

Human police officers have a rank structure – is there one for police dogs too?

All Police Dogs think they are ‘top dog’ – although there is no official rank or structure.
However, you can’t help but show respect to those dogs who have been out on the street catching criminals for years.

There are some real life 'top dogs' out serving our Force at the moment.

Have you ever done any of the following – dug up a bone so big you couldn’t drag it, chased a car and caught it, chased your tail and caught it?

I’m actually banned from my dad’s grass now, after my predecessor PD Ozzy decided to break pretty much every fence panel of the garden and regularly hop into the neighbour’s garden – so no digging up of bones unfortunately.

So it would have to be the tail!!!!!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

8 years of being Taylor'd

Those of you who follow Sear on Twitter will know that this week saw us celebrate the 8th birthday of our Beagle 'Taylor'.

Taylor

As the picture quite rightly illustrates, Taylor is a beautiful dog, not only in looks (I might be a little biased!) but also in temperament.

I grew up with Beagles, my parents always had beagles - at one point we had 3 of them together . . . triple trouble!!

The Beagle was imprinted on us during our holidays to the South of France. With both parents being teachers, we were lucky enough to spend the WHOLE 6 weeks holidays in the South of France while we were growing up.

Beagle's became part of the holiday, and I can remember always mythering to 'go & see the dogs'. Duly we trundled off to the big pen these Beagles were kept in.

I can still remember the smell of the dogs, their howling & them jumping up at the fenced enclosure they were kept in. I used to love going to see the Beagles & I suppose this is where the Beagle imprintation began!

It's interesting because we always went to the same place every year - a camp site in the South of France. The camp site had a 'Security Guard' (who was always known to me as 'The Snail Man') who carried a gun & he had an enormous, hairy German Shepherd - he was always patrolling the camp site. An old guy who always went out of his way to come & speak to us. An ironic tale really, that it was the South of France that got me hooked on dogs but not the big GSD. . .it was the Beagles who made the biggest impression. Funny given what we do now!

So having grown up with Beagles, it seemed the natural thing to do when I brought my first house. The very first thing I did was to get a dog - not just any dog. . . . a Beagle!!

In line with the family tradition of naming our Beagles, I chose a very fitting name 'Taylor'. Named after one of my Albion hero's - Bob Taylor. Not only a fantastic footballer but also a real genuinely nice bloke. Every time I've seen Bob, he's been a real gent - full of laughs, stories & ALWAYS has time for the fans. Ironically I regularly drive past his house!!

All of our Beagles have been named with a WBA FC connection (except for one Beagle who we rescued from the streets - aptly named Shiloh). We've had some great names - our very first Beagle was called 'Baggie' & we also had one called 'Astle' after the legend Jeff Astle.

So with Taylor & Astle - had they been around in the same era - they could have been a formidable force. . . not only on the pitch but also a formidable doggy force causing mayhem!!

The Beagle

I'm not going to bore you with facts & figures about Beagles - most of which can be found via the internet anyway. However, Beagle Welfare are an excellent resource & first point of call for any Beagle or potential Beagle owners looking for information.

I thought it was a good time to Blog about Beagles, given Taylor's birthday this week.

I've seen & heard many, many, many people talk about getting a Beagle - we get it a lot when we're out & about with our dogs. Usually the comments we hear are:-
"Oh he's a lovely looking dog - we'd love one" - "He's a really nice size, not too big, not too small - we'd love one" - "Oh look at him with the children - we'd love one" - "Look at him sunbathing, chilled out in the garden - we'd love one"

They are really common statements - which are usually followed with exactly the same response from me . . . ."No, you really DON'T want one"

Now, let me make this absolutely clear . . .I've been brought up around Beagles & quite frankly they are my favourite dog. I'll most likely always have a Beagle for the rest of my life. So I'm certainly not 'anti Beagle' - however they are NOT for everyone.

Whilst they are the most beautiful, loving, gentle, even temperamented dogs around - they are hard work!! So far as to say, that Sear at 6 months old, is less hard work than 8 year old Taylor!

You've only got to start looking around at internet sites to see statements like these:-
"Beagles are intelligent but, as a result of being bred for the long chase, are single-minded and determined, which can make them hard to train. They are generally obedient, but can be difficult to recall once they have picked up a scent, and are easily distracted by smells around them"

"They may be on the small side but they can do a prodigious amount of damage in a short space of time to furniture, floors and curtains."

 


"Beagles are master escapologists and you should ensure that your garden is completely escape proof."

And finally . . . The Kennel Club says, “the man with the lead in his hand and no dog in sight owns a Beagle”, so be warned.

I could quite literally write a whole book on the trials, tribulations & stories about our Beagles growing up. Every single one of them has done something in line with the statements above. Maybe we'll put together all our 'funny' (although not so funny at the time!) stories & publish them one day.

In fact there's an absolutely fantastic book about the very said trials, tribulations & stories about Beagles -which is a must read!

I'm sure every Beagle owner will be able to relate to the opening part of the book!!

The Conclusion

If you are thinking of getting a dog, think hard anyway but if it's a Beagle you think you want - think again!

Yes, Beagles are fantastic family dogs, great with children & will quite happily relax while you're relaxing or walk for miles & miles & miles if you are out & about.

However, they are hard work! They need plenty to keep them occupied & don't really like being left on their own. They are pack animals & like to be around people. Even now if we leave Taylor on his own at home with nothing to do - even for 5 minutes he'll howl the place down!!

If you get a Beagle make sure you put plenty of time into it's training. You'll have a brilliant family dog which is quite rightly - great with children, a good size, beautiful, chilled out but most importantly well trained.

Beagle's ARE trainable, but are stubburn, independent & easily distracted, so they are not EASILY trainable, but none the less they can be trained to do great things and are even used in some country as part of various Police & Border agencies. I had great delight on my visit to Austrialia to be comfronted with a pack of working Beagles!!



It's a dog I'd highly recommend & a guaranteed top choice - PROVIDING YOU ARE WILLING TO GIVE IT THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT TO LIVE IN. They're not for the feint hearted - so do not enter getting a Beagle lightly!

One thing people forget about a Beagle is the other part of their name . . . . .Hound.

A Beagle Hound!!