Winners of 'Public Choice' Award

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Training Phases - Phase 2

In our last Blog we talked about the type of work & training we do with our pups from the age of 6 weeks to 6 months. When we talked about Michael Ellis' method of dog training, I searched everywhere for a video I'd previously seen on the Leerburg feed. I've finally managed to find it here. 

Since the last Blog, we read a very sad story about the Sacramento Police Dog - K9 Bodie - who was shot in the line of duty. Fortunately, here in the UK such instances are fairly rare, whereas in the States we very often get to hear about K9's being shot in the line of duty.

However, there are plenty of times in the UK where a Police Dog has been stabbed, kicked, bottled &/or severely injured by the lunatic they are facing on the streets.

K9 Bodie - shot by a car thief
Incidentally - stabbing or any other form of attack on a Police Dog is merely classed as 'Criminal Damage' here in the UK, whereas in the States a crime against a Police Dog is the same as a crime on a fully fledged Police Officer.

Time for a change in the UK law . . . .

Luckily it seems that K9 Bodie has made a fantastic recovery, with his surgeon vet predicting he'll be back out on the streets very soon.

Ultimately, we really can't second guess what our pups may face when they are operational. So we take great care & attention to detail, to ensure that they are fully prepared & accustomed to anything they may come across in their life as a Police Dog.

I used to get some real funny looks from people in our local park when I was out doing bits with the pups - fortunately now after all these years, most people know me & realise I'm not really beating up my dog. In fact they probably think I am the said lunatic - rolling around the floor with a dog in the middle of a bunch of bramble & trees!!!

Sear was bred by an external breeder, who used one of West Mids Police's top stud dogs - Bach. His view of Sear when he emailed me last week was...
"A big, tough clever dog - but at heart always a happy and honest soul. Hard with the bad guys, friendly with the good guys!"

Sear's mum
As mentioned in our last Blog, our aim is to  develop a pup who is temperamentally steady & sound, but has plenty 'about him (or her)' to ensure he does the job, is brave & willing to find, challenge & ultimately detain people.

At the end of the day, the harsh reality of the role he's going into, is that one day he may have to sacrifice his own life to save that of his handler.

Phase 2

So at 6 months, once the required licensing skills & exercises have been instilled into the pup, the next phase of the work we do with the dogs, concentrates on recreating scenarios he'd experience when he's 'out on the streets' as a fully licensed Police Dog.

Although the exercises we set up are now a little bit more scenario based, we still do lots of environmental work & also lots of the 'focussed' sessions with the dogs i.e tracking. We just turn more of the exercises into real life type scenarios like getting the dog to track upto a building & then having to go inside & locate someone hiding in there.

We very often go out to derelict buildings to conduct exercises or use old industrial type sites - lots of the environments the dog will experience working in when he's fully operational. That said, we do still do lots of 'field' based work, simply because the dog could end up in another Force which is quite rural. So no stone is left unturned in the work we do developing our pups.

We'll also start using 'helpers' so that the dogs are not just used to biting & responding to us. We'll get all kinds of people helping us, people of all ages/sizes/backgrounds etc so that the dogs are used to behaving in the same way in the same scenarios - no matter who they are faced with. In addition, we will also start using them for tracking & property searches. This ensures that the dogs are not just conditioned to find & trace our scent.

We also try to avoid the dogs being too 'equipment' focused, so we also start to use concealed bite sleeves, so that the dogs are not just conditioned to bite sleeves. Sometimes it can become a problem when the dog is only ever used to working with equipment. If you take away the equipment the dog will go flat or not respond in the right way to different scenarios.

I've just brought some new bits to work the dogs with. I also brought some MMA forearm pads, which I'm going to adapt into concealed bite sleeves. (Although after our first test, they need a bit more reinforcement!) We are still working with young pups, so need something small, soft & lightweight whilst still offering you protection.

The beauty of the MMA pads is that they are fairly small & lightweight, which means that under a coat & the dog can't really see them. As he's in pursuit, he's not chasing a sleeve or piece of equipment - he really is chasing (& eventually biting) the helper!

Customised & 'reinforced' MMA pads

We now start to introduce a little more pressure onto the dog - so we use equipment like whips & clatter sticks. These are designed to create loud noises, just like they might hear when they're out working. (THEY AREN'T USED TO HIT THE DOGS WITH!!)

I only have to make a whip type sound with my voice & Sear will now instantly spark up.

Eventually, later on in the training, we will start to use blank firing starting pistols. This ensures that the dog is not scared of the sound of a gun shot. Ultimately, he may have to face one, one day.

The other piece of equipment we use is a padded stick, again not used to hit the dog with essentially, but initially just to get him used to having to encounter someone face to face, challenging him with a 'weapon'. The dog needs to learn to be brave and still challenge people despite them being 'armed'. Again,  it's an unfortunate scenario we need to re-create!

There's a big focus on the pup going out & 'finding' people in the training now. A lot of it is 'bite work' orientated, but again we also ensure that the dogs are of sound mind & temperament that they can go out and 'find' an elderly missing person as well.

Again, not knowing the ultimate fate or Force the pup will work for, we also need to ensure that; if the dog is in an environment where biting is not needed, but instead he's in an area where they need a dog with a good nose to find missing people, he is also up to the job.

We concentrate a lot on tracking & the finding of people both in buildings & across differing terrain - because ultimately the dog needs to be able to locate someone (whether a criminal or missing person) before he can do anything else.

The final thing we now do with the pups, is we start to leave them in the Police kennels, now & again. Although, we have a kennel set up at home, the pup needs to become used to the Police kennels because he will spend a reasonable amount of time there - for example when handler's are on holiday etc.

Pups & dogs all react differently to being in kennels, surrounded by other dogs & in a completely different environment & routine to that they are used to at home. So it's vitally important that the dogs don't feel stressed at the kennels. Again we get them used to this environment as soon as we can - but never until they are at least 6/7 months old.

Sear's first stay at the kennels will be in July when we're off to Croatia for a couple of weeks. Although we love the dogs, it's also nice to have a break & get refreshed (& not have to get up at 5-6am to take them out!!)

What next

We've got lots of things to do with Sear to bring him on further, & we always spend a week away somewhere when the pups when they are around 9/10 months old. We have a week's holiday somewhere in the UK every year where we take the dogs. It's a good chance to get out & do lots of training with the pups, whilst enjoying a nice break from the hustle & bustle of everyday life.

Mambo in Brecon Beacons
This year we're off to the Lake District in October, so we're looking forward to that! We've been really lucky with the weather everytime we've been away somewhere in the UK, so I hope I haven't jinxed it!!

We'll get lots of video's onto our YouTube channel over the coming weeks/months, so you can all see how he's developing.

The Countdown

One final thing the start of Phase 2 brings, is the inevitable start to the countdown to when we have D Day (Dreaded day) & we'll lose Sear.

As well as the development & conditioning of the pups, it's also a conditioning of the human mind - you really have to drill it into your mind that D Day is fast approaching.

So as we work with Sear, we're also working on ourselves - in preparation for the dreaded D-Day!!