Winners of 'Public Choice' Award

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

3 comments:

  1. We tried being puppy walkers for a week but unfortunately my son had severe asthma attack and allergic reaction to the puppy fur. Didn't think. He would as he's been brought up around his nans dogs. Maybe it's different when he's around them 24/7. Felt like failures but had to put sons health first. There were many many tears when we had to take her back. Would love to do it when children have grown up and left home. Tizzy had a wonderful personality and she was a very pretty dog. Miss her very much, would love to know how she's doing. Hope she makes it.

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  2. They are traveling with your family or friends to spend time and Dog Walker Seattle some owners prefer to have your dog walked weekend enjoying the weather.

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  3. Seattle is starting to warm up and people are getting their pups socialized with off leash dog walking services. This will definitely tire your pup out while giving them that added interaction they crave.

    ReplyDelete