Winners of 'Public Choice' Award

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Retiring Police Dog Rex

Having recently posted our Blog about Retiring Police Dogs, we thought we'd catch up with a few handler's, from various forces across the UK, who've recently retired their working Police dogs.

Retiring Police Dogs is a really tough subject. It pulls on the heartstrings in every way possible, from making the decision for them to retire, though to the situation of ongoing care when they are retired. We're a nation of animal lovers, so it's very easy to think Retired Dogs are being 'disregarded' - however I do know that every handler & Police Force does everything they can to help retired & retiring Police Dogs. 

Whilst every force would love to support & pay for the ongoing care of retired dogs, it is a massive cost to have to continue to support retired dogs, on top of the operational dogs Forces have working to help keep communities safe. Unfortunately, there simply isn't enough money coming in to support every dog. Public services are being squeezed every single day by Government policies - and I honestly guarantee you, if you asked any Chief's within Police Forces whether they wished they could do more for retiring Police Dogs, I absolutely know they would - 100% without question.

It would also be quite easy for forces to run dog's into the ground & work them as hard as they can, however West Mids Police have an extremely ethical approach, & the welfare of the dog comes first. 

First up, after jumping on an initial licensing course for with Bandit today, we managed to catch up with PC Veltman, who's Police Dog was born under the West Midlands Police Dog Breed Scheme. The scheme has been recognised by Kennel Club & is now a Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme, but not only does the section have a highly commended breed scheme, the welfare of both puppies & working dogs is always at the forefront of what they do.

Highlighted with the story behind PC Veltman's dog. . . . .

Thanks for catching up with us today PC Veltman, what’s the name of your dog & how did you end up having him as your working Police Dog?

My dog is PD Rex. Prior to me joining the unit and in order to gain experience, I became part of the force puppy walking scheme. During a three year period, I puppy walked 4 different Police pups. One of which became a brood bitch. The other 3 pups all  became Operational Police Dogs.

I was very fortunate as I actually puppy walked Rex. I have had him since he was 7 weeks old so the bond between us is excellent. 

PD 'puppy' Rex

You obviously had a lot of input into his early puppyhood life, how has he performed operationally?

Rex was my first working dog so when we became operational we were learning the role together! As Rex gained more experience he knew what was required when we arrived at jobs. Rex was a good all round dog and we progressed to becoming a Firearms Support Dog team.

Rex has been 'on the streets' for a while now, what would you say have been his best results?

Rex and I have had lots of excellent results during the 4 years of working the streets. We have been involved in hundreds of arrests and Rex has recovered thousands of pounds worth of stolen property. 

PC Veltman & PD Rex on their licensing course in 2009

One of our best jobs was on a night shift where we attended a burglary at an off licence. On arrival PD Rex picked up a track from the attacked premises. The track eventually led us into a cemetery,  Rex continued to track through the cemetery & eventually stopped at a tree. He sat and began barking up. I shone my torch up and saw a suspect hiding approximately 30 feet up in the tree! A great result!

It's a fantastic result & clearly shows the importance of being able to rely on a dog's nose. Not many 2 legged officers would have caught the person hiding 30 feet up a tree in a cemetery! Has Rex ever had to save you from real danger?

We have attended many violent incidents and large scale disorders. These have included incidents where West Midlands Police have provided mutual aid to other forces. 

PD Rex 'at work'

I have been fortunate as Rex has excelled at such incidents where he is very vocal and protective of me. There have been several times when, had it not been for the presence of Police Dog Teams, incidents could have escalated and members of the public and Police officers would have been injured.

He's quite clearly been a fantastic Police Dog & got some excellent results for you - ultimately protecting the community you serve in. It will be a big loss to see Rex retire. How old is Rex & why has the decision been made to retire him?

Rex is only 5 and a half years old, but unfortunately he has been diagnosed with a gracillis contracture in his left hindleg. 

The condition means that basically Rex has a muscle in his leg that is contracting. He has a strange gait but does not seem in any pain and he still runs round like a puppy!!!  

After consultation with an orthopaedic vet, we made the decision that Rex would retire. There is no cure for gracillis contracture and no specific medication, however  I do take Rex to hydrotherapy (swimming) to build up his leg muscles.

It must have been an extremely difficult decision to make on Rex. How hard was it to make the final decision for Rex to retire?

This was a hard decision as Rex is still very active and the condition has not affected his work or his desire to work. 

PC Veltman & PD Rex on their final shift together

However if I continue to work Rex then the condition could worsen or lead to other injuries. I want to ensure that Rex has a good quality of life in retirement. After all he has looked after me on the street for the last 4 years, so I owe him that much!

Having had Rex since he was 7 weeks old, the bond you have with him having gone through so much on the streets must be amazing. What does the future hold for Rex? Will he be able to stay with you & your family?

Rex is being retired to me. He is part of our family. 

I am lucky as Rex has always behaved like a pet dog at home, but when he jumps into the transit box in my car he switches straight into work mode.

It must be a relief that you don't have to try to rehome Rex. What changes have you had to make at home since he retired?

Rex no longer sleeps outside in the Police issue kennel. He lives the life of luxury in the house now and is spoiled rotten! 

Rex still has plenty of exercise. I still do property searches and occasional tracks for his ball to keep his mind active!

Rex is socialable with other dogs and he gets on well with his replacement, Duke.

PD Rex & new boy Duke chilling

So as Rex enjoys hanging up his harness & lead, whilst living the life of luxury, what’s next for you as a handler?

I am currently on an initial General Purpose Police Dog licensing course with my new dog Duke. 

He is a 2 year old Malinois. In fact it's actually his birthday today!!

Hopefully Duke will prove himself to be every bit as good a Police Dog as Rex!

PD Duke

Its going to be strange once we are licensed because as previously mentioned, Rex knew what was expected at jobs, where as Duke is going to have learn quickly! 

He sure has some big paws to follow!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Pastures New for Bandit

Those of you who follow us (or Bandit!) on Twitter will know that he's going to be linking up with his new handler soon. I'm absolutely delighted with the handler he is going to!!

I've said time & time again, how it's 'funny' how things seem to work out, & Bandit's departure is no different because there's a really great story behind it . . . 

All those year's ago when I decided to take on & develop a puppy GSD under the West Mids Police Breed Scheme, I brought little PD Pace home.

Taylor with PD Pace

We're now in the position where I've gone the full circle & will sadly be seeing PD Pace enter retirement later this year. It's one of the reason's we've been highlighting the circumstances & situation surrounding retiring Police Dogs so much recently.

PD Pace has been a fantastic servant to the Police force & has had some absolutely brilliant results & caught a great number of prisoners. He's a trained Firearms dog, so has also attended jobs alongside the Armed Response Unit.

There's some brilliant photo's of PD Pace knocking around the internet on sites like Flickr & he's also been in the news for a few of his jobs too.

Here's a story about PD Pace at a firearms incident . . . 

Internet picture of Pace
So when we heard that it was coming up to time for PD Pace to hang up his lead & harness, we were a little sad. Fortunately, his handler will be keeping him at home, however, the reason Pace is retiring is due to arthritis  So his handler will now have to pick up the cost for any treatment Pace may need in retirement. 

If you haven't already done so - check out our Retired Police Dog Blog!

It was completely by chance that we bumped into Pace & his handler at the kennels during the last 'puppy Sunday'. He was being dropped off to the kennels for a couple of days & we managed to bump into them - purely by chance.

We were talking casually about stuff generally, & Pace's handler mentioned he'd be needing a new dog . . . . . . .

To cut a long story short, the upshot is that, following our chance meeting at the kennels where we found out Pace would be retiring, I also mentioned that Bandit was nearly ready to be allocated - & hey presto things just fell into place.

It's great that Bandit's going to someone we know really well, & although we're sad about Pace having to retire, it's really great that one of our pups will be going off to fill his paws - & they are very big paws to fill indeed!!

Bandit showing what he can do

Bandit & Pace are both from the same stud dog - Tag, so they are similar in some of their traits. This also helps match Bandit to his new handler too, & it's silly little things like this which make the dog & handler partnerships so strong.

Stud Dog Tag

It's great that Bandit will be going to an experienced handler, who is also really excited & looking forward to having him. It's always nice when handler's are keen & go out of their way to get our pups. He'd only seen a few videos of Bandit on YouTube too!!

It's also great that Bandit can go straight to a new handler, as I didn't want him to stay in kennels while we are in Thailand. It was always our goal to get Bandit up to speed & ready for a course, over the 10 or so weeks we've had him. So I'm delighted that we've managed to get Bandit up to speed & have also found him a great handler. Everything has worked out really well!

Bandit property searching
We've met up to introduce Bandit to Pace, so that there aren't any major socialisation problems. It's one of the key reasons we want our pups to be sociable with other dogs, so that if they go to homes with other dogs there shouldn't be a problem.

It's also been a great opportunity for Bandit's new handler to see Bandit work & get to know him & his traits. He's been really impressed with everything he's seen Bandit do!

So young Bandit will be departing in a couple of weeks to team up with his new handler & he will be taking over the harness & lead from the very first puppy I developed.

We've been delighted with the way Bandit has progressed, & we're really looking forward to seeing him develop into a fully fledged Police Dog with his new handler.

Bandit will spend some time bonding with his new handler, he'll get to ride around in the back of the Police van & get to experience lots of new things, before heading onto an initial licensing course later on this year. 

It's been great to have Bandit & hopefully he'll get plenty of great results & keep the good name of the Pilgrim Bandits charity going too! We'll definitely be keeping everyone up to date with his progress.

The other 'funny' thing about Bandit going to replace retiring PD Pace, is that, just as PD Pace was the first GSD puppy I developed under the West Mids Breed Scheme - Bandit is also going to be the last GSD pup we'll develop - for now . . . . . 

Sear's First Result

Day's like today make what we do so worthwhile.

We talk a lot about puppy 'D-Day' & just how bad & upsetting it is on the day our pups leave for pastures new. However, it doesn't take long for those feelings to subside & we're onto concentrating on our new puppy project.

Change over day - PD Usha & PD Arragon

It's a strange feeling the first few days after the pups have gone. I'd say the days leading upto D-Day are the worst, & then D Day itself is horrible, but once they're gone you do tend to think about other things. Especially given that we 'swap' the pups over on the same day, you don't really have time to think about them going - we're normally too busy chasing after a 6 week old pup!!

It doesn't mean to say that we've forgotten about our pups, because all the way through their lives you think about them. They have such a massive impact on everything we do, you can't NOT remember them & their little traits. 

You always have in the back of your mind, that one day we may receive a call to say that they've been injured or worse still . . . that they have passed away. So we never just forget about our pups. They were part of our family, & I always class them as 'my' dog, & for that reason you do worry about them (& their handler of course ;-) ) being out there on the streets - it's a tough & sometimes dangerous job they do.

Vancouver Police Dog Teak with a 25cm stab wound

We always see our pups when they are older & always get to hear about what they're upto. We've been doing it for so long & had so many pups come through, it's very rare we'll go to the Dog Training Centre & not see one of our 'pups' & their handler. All of the handlers who have our pups are brilliant for keeping in touch, so we can never just erase or forget about them.

PD Sear & PD Bandit

So it was great when we were at the Dog Training Centre today & we heard about PD Sear's first result. It's such a great feeling knowing that the little ball of fluff we brought up, is now out there doing the job for real & catching the bad guys.

I said before, you can't really call them Police Dogs until they're out there working, & ultimately, catching the bad guys, so it's great that Sear has gone out & got his first prisoner. It's almost a little bit of relief too, that he has actually gone out there & proven that he can do it for real.

Baby PD Sear

What makes it even more rewarding, in some ways, is the fact that it was down to finding someone after a really long track - just over a mile long!

As part of our pup's development, we spend lots & lots of time on nose work exercises. It's such a vital part of a Police Dog's role. It's nice for people to watch bitework exercises & obedience stuff, & to be fair the nose work stuff can be pretty boring for people to watch - but to me it's the most important thing & it's why we spend so much time on their nose work.

Most of the best Police Dog results come off the back of the dog finding someone or something, that the 2 legged officers could not find. It's why the dog's are so valuable to Police Forces.

I've said before, I LOVE watching a dog working his nose, it really is brilliant! So for Sear's first prisoner to come off the back of a track is fantastic for me - probably even better than getting his first bite. It makes all the painstaking, back breaking time we spent laying tracks, in the ice, cold, rain & wind - and with Bandit at the moment, the snow!! - all worthwhile.

Sear's handler & the instructor of his course have done a great job turning him into a Police Dog. Whilst we do so much with the pups environmentally & training wise, what we can never replicate or do, is turn them into real Police Dogs. 

Police Dog Sear

When they leave us, yes they are at a high standard in terms of the exercises & ability, but to actually go out there & perform the job on the streets is another matter. There's a MASSIVE difference between having a great 'sport' dog & having a great Police Dog.

It's a real combined effort to get our pups out there & working on the street, & we're chuffed to bits that he's gone out & got a great early result!!

Here's hoping it's the first of many . . . .

Friday, 11 January 2013

Retired Police Dogs

There's been quite a few of our 'Tweeps' & our friends, who have recently had their trusty & faithful Police Dog's retire. Very often we're asked, what happens to the dogs when they retire?

It's a really heart wrenching time for handlers, when it comes to the point that their trusty & faithfully 4 legged partner has to hang up their working lead. We always talk about D-Day with our pups & how difficult it is, but when working Police Dogs retire you can multiply 'puppy D-Day' by anything you want, & you won't get close to the roller coaster of emotions that handler's go through.

I've said before, the bond between working dog & handler is unexplainable & you cannot compare it to anything.

It's such a massive decision for handlers at the point their working dog retires. There are so many factors which now come into play.

We've seen over the past number of months, the full spectrum of scenarios handlers face & the routes handlers have taken, when their faithful dog comes to retirement.

We've seen handlers who's dog has retired & become 'family' dogs & some who have been retired to new homes. We've also seen, more recently, cases where dogs have retired & people have struggled to find suitable new homes for them. It's such a shame.

Sussex Police Dog Max - needed a new family home

There's dogs who have retired due to old age & others who have retired early due to ill health, & the odd few get retired due to accidents or injuries sustained whilst 'on the duty'.

There's so much for handlers to consider when their dog retires & it's not always just a case of them retiring as family dogs.

Recently retired PD Duco enjoying life in his new retirement home

Whilst it is extremely heartbreaking for handlers to have to re-home their retired dog, sometimes it is the only option - & sometimes it's also the fairest option for the dog & for the ongoing quality of life for the dog. 

If the dog is used to being out & about everyday with his handler - how will the dog cope with being at home 24/7? If the handler & their family all work during the day - is it fair to leave the dog all day on his own? How about if the dog doesn't get on with the new working Police Dog - is it fair to have to manage the 2 dogs if they do not get on? Is it fair to have the older dog stressed due to the arrival of a new dog? The list of possible circumstances & scenarios, when dog's come to the end of their working life, is endless.

Recently retired Max - now trying to adjust to retired life with  his handler

There's so many considerations & factors that need to be considered. There's so many variables & different circumstances which dictate the route handlers go down with the retired dogs. Sometimes it a real head versus heart decision too.

Similarly there are many considerations & hurdles to overcome when trying find a suitable home for a retired Police Dog. How many people are willing to take on an 8 year old dog? Add, an 8 year old dog with health problems & you have a real difficulty in finding a suitable home. Sometimes just putting the word 'Police' in front of dog, makes it really difficult to re-home too!

It's heartbreaking for handlers. Having to give up their best friend after so many years working together is heart wrenching. Their dog will have saved their life, protected them from bad things, & ultimately served alongside them keeping their - & your - communities safe. Now they are in a position where potentially they are going to be parting ways.

PD Penny retired today (10/1/13) & is going to a new home

So finding a new home & making the decision to retire their dog to a new home is not one which is taken lightly. I know every handler would definitely keep their trusty friend if the circumstances allowed. However not always do circumstances allow.

For anyone taking on a retired working Police Dog as a family dog - whether their handler or a new family - it is a MASSIVE commitment. Not only a massive commitment from a time & family life aspect, but also from a financial point of view.

Once the dog's are retired from Police duty, there is no ongoing financial help or support for them. They, quite simply, are pensioned off with a pat on the head & a little tummy tickle if they are lucky. Police Dog Janus was lucky & got an enormous juicy bone!!

So for handlers there's a real head versus heart decision to make, especially if the dogs are suffering with illness of injury. Like I said, every single handler would, without question, keep their retired dog as a family pet if circumstances allowed. 

However, as I also said, sometimes circumstances don't always allow this to happen. 

Sometimes these circumstances could boil down to financial decisions. A handler simply may not be able to afford the ongoing care & veterinary treatment the dog needs. It's not possible to insure Police Dogs & certainly not retired Police Dogs, so every penny of care required is paid for out of their own pocket. Unfortunately not everyone can afford to take on this financial commitment & the decision is made to try to find a suitable home who can cover such costs.

PD Rex has been with his handler since he was 6 weeks old & will retire to him

It's absolutely heartbreaking for handlers to have to make this decision - especially when it purely comes down to cost. It's a heart wrenching decision & very often I know handlers will do everything they can to fund the cost of keeping their faithful partner.

The majority of handlers do keep their retired dogs as 'family dogs' & with it they take on the ongoing financial implications of now having their 'own' dog. 

Dogs will sometimes have been retired due to illness or injury, which could have occurred during active service. Whilst operational, the dog's treatment & general ongoing costs are covered & paid for by the Force, however once the dogs are retired this now becomes the handler's responsibility.

PD Vero staying with his handler

Similarly, anyone re-homing a retired Police Dog will also be in the same boat & will take over the ongoing cost of care for the dog.

So it's not always a rosy time for handlers when their dog retires. As well as the emotional side of seeing their faithful partner retire, with it also comes the big decisions handlers need to make on the future of their dog & to ensure the dogs get the best ongoing quality of life  in retirement.

So we want to wish all of those retired dogs featured above, & all Police dog's either retired or retiring, the very happiest of retirements!! I hope they are all enjoying hanging up the harness & passing on the lead to the new kids on the block!


Hello & Goodbye - all in a day

Well I suppose today is a strange day to start a Blog – given we've just had to give up our latest puppy - PD Mambo. Yet on the other hand we have a completely fresh start with a new puppy, who now needs the time, effort and dedication from us, to ensure he’s ready to go and do a job in 12 months time. I can assure you that these Blogs won’t all be too downhearted!!

The bond people have with their dogs is remarkable, and we’re often asked “just how do you manage to give a dog up after 12 months”. Without question, it is the hardest thing we ever have to do & we always dread the ‘D Day’ (Departure Day).

PD Mambo
However, one overriding point which always sticks in my mind is the fact that the dog is going to do what he loves doing. Going to do what he has literally been born & bred to do - enjoying life as one big game. Everything they do is part of a game, no matter what it is. And there aren't many dogs that get to go to work with their owners pretty much every day.
The dogs spend almost their entire life with their handler, it's a 24/7 job. Even at the end of their shift, they still have their dog to look after, to feed & walk. Dedication to the job is an understatement, but it's a job no-one would swap for anything in the world.
There’s a very popular phrase associated with handlers -
“One way to annoy a dog handler is to hurt his dog, and one way to annoy a dog is to hurt his handler”.

The bond between a handler & his dog is unbreakable & unexplainable, so knowing the dog you've developed since it was 6 weeks old, is going to do a job alongside someone who puts their life on the line day in day out, is something of a slight comfort when they leave us. Although these dogs are essentially there to do a job, & in extreme cases, pay the ultimate sacrifice if needs be, their handlers will do EVERYTHING to ensure their lives as a working dog is as rewarding & enjoyable as possible.
Hand rearing
It’s a sad goodbye to Mambo, who has now moved on to pastures new. Starting life as the litter ‘runt’, who had to be hand reared along with his brothers & sisters, he has now hopefully got all of the foundations instilled in him to become a truly great working Police Dog. 

And, whilst we may take a few of the plaudits for the way in which he developed & has turned out, there was a massive amount of work, time, patience & dedication that went into ensuring the litter had every chance of success. 

There are a great set of kennel staff and people associated with the Dog Section, who all contributed to the hand rearing  & welfare of Mambo’s litter. Quite simply without their assistance these dogs wouldn't have even made it into our hands for development.

So the very first Blog post, says good-bye to Mambo, whilst welcoming in the new boy. There's some very interesting news to come about our new boy, so keep your eyes & ears peeled. 

We’ll keep you updated as to his progress & what he’s been up to, as well as providing a few dog related articles and stories along the way.

The New Boy

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Final 4 Weeks of The 'Pilgrim' Bandit

As you may have seen in our previous Blog, we have confirmed the date that Bandit will be leaving us for pastures new. He will be moving on & heading to a handler on 6th February.

I'm absolutely delighted with the handler he is going to. I know him really well & there's a really great story behind who Bandit is going to. I've said before it's really funny how things seem to pan out!! We'll be letting you know a bit more on that front soon -  so keep your eyes peeled!

Now that we know he's heading off, we're just in the process of trying to fine tune a few things before he teams up with his handler.

Photo by @Fabiano3333

The work we've put in over the past 10 weeks has been pretty quickfire & we've tried to ensure that Bandit's at least got all of the basic exercises instilled in him, so that when he teams up with his handler it's just a matter of them bonding together before going onto an initial course - rather than his handler having to teach him the basic things like biting, tracking, searching etc.

Bandit's a little behind Sear in terms of his exercises, but considering we had Sear until he was 10 months, compared to Bandit's 10 weeks, I'm pretty pleased with where Bandit is. Actually I lie, I'm really pleased with where he is, especially considering the time we've had together. He's done brilliantly.

There's a few exercises already that are 'licensable' without a doubt. His obedience, recall, speak on command is spot on & his property searching is absolutely fantastic - even if I do say so myself!!

Bandit 'finds' the padlock on the tap

There's a few exercises he understands & has the basics of, like tracking & his bite work.

However there are areas which will need to be developed, mainly due to his age & size at the moment - but most of that will come as he matures & develops. Bandit's not as big as Sear was, but he's a bit stockier so at the moment he lacks a bit of body weight behind him.

Photo by @Fabiano3333

There's a bit more work to be done with Bandit than there was with Sear, however he has the right foundations to build on & it's a case of him & his handler polishing up exercises, rather than having to completely start from scratch.

The next 4 weeks, we'll really be concentrating on his tracking. It's probably his weakest area at the moment - only because we haven't really spent that much time working on it. Usually our pups start the very basics of tracking at around 10 weeks old so it makes a huge difference.

But Bandit's got the basics & knows that when his harness is on, it's time to get his nose down & track. He's pretty good on a straight line track with food on, so we'll start to remove the food on the straights, & then start to introduce some turns on there too. We will probably run out of time to start putting property on there, but with the way Bandit's progressed over the past 10 weeks - I'm not ruling anything out!!

Bandit & his tracking harness

The only thing we really stay away from is agility work. Because the pups are so young & their bodies are forming, growing & developing we don't do any true agility work. We have them hopping over 1 foot high things, so that they understand getting over something & going into a down. But in terms of high & real life type agility work - we completely steer clear of it.

We usually break the puppy's development down into 2 phases, as detailed below, however with Bandit we've pretty much crammed as much as we can into 10 weeks. It's been a challenge for sure, but one we've loved & the results we've seen have been fantastic!!

Training Phase 1
Training Phase 2

Bandit's Progression After Us

One thing Bandit will start to develop with his handler is his 'Police Dog' abilities. We can do all of the development & training you like to ensure that the dogs can tick all of the licensing grades - but what we can't do is turn them into Police Dogs. Although we re-create real life as much as we can, you just cannot match what happens on the streets. Even an initial course can't really re-create that, so in terms of them being classed as 'real' Police Dogs, I don't think they can get that title until they've started catching the bad guys.

Having teamed up with his handler, Bandit will start to do more 'real life' type training, where he'll be completing building & open searches for people. He'll start to develop his crowd control skills & generally do all the 'fun' stuff dogs of this age like doing.

Photo by @Fabiano3333

He'll be brushing up on his tracking & his heel work & generally getting himself ready to hit the licensing course running.

It's possible Bandit could get on a licensing course in April, which would be really good, so it's great that he could hit the course running & not have to spend time leraning the basics before hand. It means the 6 weeks between him teaming up with his handler & going on an initial course, can be spent mainly bonding.

Until the dog's have got their first prisoners & started being exposed to what really happens out on the streets, you'll never know whether they will make top Police Dogs. You just can't train for some things.

Police Dog Stig was stabbed with scissors

This is why it's such a massive thing mentally, for a handler to take out a new, 'green', recently licensed dog onto the streets. It's especially tough for handlers who've also recently retired their trusty, faithful, real Police Dog & are now relying on their new kid on the block. So getting that first job & initial results are massive.

There's a fair few of our Tweeps, who've recently retired their trusty hounds & it's been great to see that their replacements have taken on the mantle so well. So it's a big congrats to all of them, for their hard work in developing & bringing those dogs through an initial course & onto the streets catching the bad guys!!

New kid on the block - Police Dog Stig (a different Stig to the one above!)  Photo by @Fabiano3333

There's also a few of our Tweeps, who have recently retired their faithful partners & will be embarking upon an initial course themselves in the coming weeks. So we wish all of you the very best & hope we see you Tweeting about your new fully fledged licensed Police Dogs soon!

Malinois Police Dog Duke aiming to fill the BIG paws of #topdog PD Rex

It's a BIG message of Good Luck to you all from us.

You know who you all are Tweeps!! ;-)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The final 'Bandit' countdown

I can't believe time has gone so quickly! It only seems like yesterday I was driving back from the Dog Training Centre, having picked Bandit up out of the kennels.

We've only had Bandit with us for just 10 weeks - although it seems like much longer! So it's been a real whirlwind with him. However, I'm absolutely delighted with where he is now, compared to where he was when I picked him up.

Bandit on 'his' mat

I said at the time when I picked Bandit up, that Bandit was a fairly decent prospect. Everything I saw in the first few days has really helped us move him on so quickly. His development has been brilliant & I'm really proud with how he's done.

I've really pushed him on quite quickly & asked a lot of him, however everything I've asked him to do, he's more than taken in his stride.

Bandit's big strides

I really do love this line of breeding, you get a real sharp dog out of the Czech line of dogs. He's a lot different to Sear, but the way he picks things up & the way in which he learns has been brilliant. Everything you do with Bandit has to be at 100 miles an hour!! In a way though, this has helped us move him on so quickly. He always wants, & more importantly, he LIKES to learn.

So, we're now into our final 4 weeks together. We, quite literally, are now counting down to D Day (Dreaded Day)

It's always horrible when the pups leave us, & Bandit going will be no different. The pups become part of your family, & even having Bandit for just 10 weeks, he's still very much part & parcel of our everyday & family life.

I must admit, it has been a bit stressful with Bandit, but it's been great having him & I've loved every minute. OK well, maybe not EVERY minute, but most!

One thing we always strive for is to have an 'off switch' for the pups. As well as the training & working we do with them, the dog's need to understand when it's time for them to rest & relax. It's just as important, especially for young dogs, to have time to chill out & sleep. Puppies do most of their growing whilst they are asleep so it's vitally important that they get enough. It's another reason why crate training is so useful.

Having appropriate time to chill out & relax also ensures that when we're training, there's a real intensity about what we're doing. There needs to be a clear difference for the dog's between resting & training. It's exactly the same reason we don't have any toys out for them in the house. No toys are ever left out for the dogs to play with.

We don't let the dogs in our lounge per say. The dog's aren't allowed in the house on their own at all, & they are only allowed in certain areas of the house, whilst we are with them. They are not allowed upstairs whatsoever.

Bandit with his 'dummy' - the Stag Antler

The only time we use the lounge is when it's time for us to chill out, relax & watch a bit of TV (or for me to play my PlayStation!!). So I also expect the pups to do the same - relax that is, not play the PlayStation! I don't want the dogs running around the lounge, on the go & looking for mischief. So they need to learn that going into the lounge is their cue to also chill out & relax.

Bandit's 'off switch' is a little stuck on the 'on' side!! So it's been a real challenge to try to get him to chill out. He's constantly on the go, no matter where he is. He's so alert it's unreal. Any little noise he hears, he has to check it out. He could hear a pin drop & have to go & check it out. He's always on guard.

Don't get me wrong, it's an absolutely brilliant trait for him to have as a Police Dog. He's got a real natural suspicion about him, always keeps his ears & eyes open. So for that purpose it's great. However, he does also need to learn to relax & rest too. It'll be hard work when he starts working, so he needs to learn there's a time for recharging the doggy batteries.

He's got a lot better though & typically, just as he's starting to fit in & learning to chill in the lounge - it's time for him to move on!

Bandit chilling in the lounge

We always joke, that every time we get a pup, we go through all of the training, stress & disruption, we get them to a point where it's enjoyable having them. They are well behaved, trained & fit in nicely to everyday life . . . . .and then they move on! We must be bonkers!

Bandit's also been the most destructive pup I think I've had! He's had everything. We need to make a few repairs to the kennel, our door step needs replacing & the crate cover's been ripped, to name but a few Bandit misdemeanours.

So it has been a little stressful, however it's certainly been worth it. He's a fantastic little dog & to see the progress he's made in a relatively short space of time, is so rewarding. He's got a really great personality & most of all, he just loves having fun! If you don't provide his fun - he'll just go & find his own fun!!

I really do like the little Bandit & it'll be just as heartbreaking when he goes, just as it has been for any of our previous pups.

The only benefit compared to when Sear went, is that we know the date he'll be going so we get to mentally prepare for it.

There's a few handlers looking at taking Bandit on, which is great. There's some really good, experienced handlers who have all said good things about the videos we've put on YouTube of Bandit too. So I'm really happy that he'll go to a good handler & continue his progression & ultimately hopefully become a Fully Fledged PD.

Hopefully he may even get on a licensing course in April 2013, so we'll be keeping everything crossed that it all works out.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A 'Pilgrim' Bandit Thank You

"Always a little further"

You will no doubt have seen our bombardment of Twitter requests, just before Christmas, for our Tweeps to donate some money to the Pilgrim Bandits Charity.

It's the first time I've ever really done anything like this before, so I didn't really know what to expect - and I'm not really one for asking such things! However I must admit, I was totally amazed & blown away by everyone's generosity in donating to the Pilgrim Bandits.

It's been such a great pleasure to have brought young PD Bandit on, with the aim to get him upto speed, to hopefully carry the fine name of the Pilgrim Bandits Charity, as a fully fledged and licensed Police Dog.
PD 'Pilgrim' Bandit

It's a really tough time out there at the moment financially, so to have raised over £400 in less than a month, just by people donating on Just Giving, has been an absolutely brilliant achievement & we really do thank you all for your generosity, from the bottom of our hearts.

I know the money gets used by the charity in such a fantastic way, to help try rebuild the lives of soldiers injured doing a job they love, all to protect us and our communities.

Through Sarah's job, I've seen first hand what these soldiers & their families have to go through when they arrive back from Bastion & such like - & I've said before it's sometimes brought me close to tears - so it's great we've been able to raise some money which will go towards helping these fine & brave people.

So it's a massive thanks from us to everyone of you who very kindly donated to the Charity. Everyone on our Twitter list 'Pilgrim Bandit De Vere' very kindly dug deep, especially just before Christmas, to help us raise a bit of money for the Pilgrim Bandits.

We really are grateful & thankful to everyone. THANKS SO MUCH!!!

Pilgrim Bandit De Vere List

The reason we set up the list & called it the Pilgrim Bandit De Vere list, was because the 'dog friendly' Village Hotel Birmingham Dudley very kindly agreed to help support our quest to raise some money for the Pilgrim Bandits.

They made a very generous offer to put up a free overnight stay for one lucky donor, who would win a visit around the Dog Training Centre. Knowing we have Tweeps from all over the UK, it was great that the Village Hotel very kindly put the room up, so that someone could really enjoy the visit, both to the Dog Training Centre & also to the hotel itself.

It was great to be able to offer a little something as a thank you to our donors & a really great gesture from the Village Hotel too.

You'll have no doubt seen us Tweeting & Blogging about the Hotel recently, it's as a real big thank you from us for their support.

I am a member at the Health & Fitness Centre at the hotel & a couple of things that drew me to become a member was their 'dog friendly' room policy & the support they give to charities.

The Hotel & the staff at the Hotel all do a fantastic amount of work for charities. This year a few members of staff will be running the London Marathon in support of both the British Heart Foundation & local Wolverhampton based charity Promise Dreams.

The Hotel also regularly hosts charity days, auctions etc & you'll often see support for a charity when you visit the hotel, as they allow charities to have little stalls in the lobby area.

If you're not already following the Hotel on Twitter - pop over & give them a follow!!

You can check out our previous Blogs about the Hotel & it's facilities here:-
Family Fit, Not Just Physically Fit
Dog Friendly De Vere Village Hotel Birmingham Dudley


Last, but by no means least, a big congratulations to @Lyds170 who was the winner of the De Vere Hotel & Dog Training Centre visit prize draw!!

We're looking forward to welcoming Lyds down to the Dog Training Centre, followed by an overnight stay at the Village Hotel Birmingham Dudley.

We hope it'll be a great day & there'll be a chance for Lyds to see some of the latest litters of pups, along with some trainee PD's & some fully fledged PD's too!

Hopefully it will be a day to remember & the rain stays away.

Once again, we're really grateful for everyone who donated and to everyone who retweeted our requests. Every donation & retweet helped the cause either financially or by raising awareness for the Pilgrim Bandits charity via all the retweets.

So it really is great that we have such #toptweeps!!

And Finally . . .


You may have seen the news that Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson was named in the New Years Honour List & is now a very proud Member of the British Empire.

So we wanted to take this opportunity to pass on our Huge Congratulations to L/Bdr Ben Parkinson MBE for the recognition he has received.

He epitomises the strength of character our fantastic members of the Armed Forces have, & despite his injuries, he's beaten all of the odds to achieve so much already. So many of those brave soldiers who return to the UK seriously injured have to go through so much, so for such recongition to be given is a great achievement.

I know Ben follows PD Bandit's progress & we're really highly honoured that we've been involved with Bandit's development & have been able to help the charity Ben is a Patron of.