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Monday, 15 May 2017

After A Disastrous Start To His Police Career Comet Gets A Second Chance

In This Weeks Blog
Duke Finds A New Home And Is Doing Well
Our Latest Recruits Eric And Elsa Join The Force
Our Young Pups Get Busy Practising For The Devon County Show

Comet Gets A Second Chance

In April 2016 Comet successfully graduated as an operational Police dog but within 6 months had his operational license withdrawn because his then handler Andy and his area trainers believed he was lacking in boldness and was inconsistent his tracking performance.

After a period of rehabilitation and allocation to a new handler Jason Gilbert I am delighted to report that this month Comet and Jason relicensed as an operational Police dog team. Here is his story.

Comet was one of 7 pups in our C litter born on the 20th of May 2014. 

He was puppy walked by Dawn and Mark Harrison. Here he is with Dawn who he adored.

For me he was probably the most rounded and most confident in the litter and performed consistently well throughout his development period with Dawn and Mark. Here he is pictured with Dawn third from the right on their first training day.

Here he is showing real determination and desire with Dawn on his introduction to criminal work.

He completed his Initial Police dog course in April 2016 along with his litter mates Charley, Cosmic and Chaos. He is pictured here on the course 2nd from the right. He then began his life as a Police dog in the Dorset Police force with his handler Andy.

None of the 4 dogs who graduated could be described as hard tough dogs but they all had good temperaments with strong working aptitudes and were extremely willing and nice dogs to live with or be around.

Here they all are in Exeter city centre on the course demonstrating a calmness and a reliability in and around members of the public. 

Comet is the dog on the right of the video.

Most young dogs having completing an initial Police dog course need time to mature and develop into competent Police dogs and our C litter pups were no exception.

Unfortunately Comet didn’t settle into life as a Police dog in the early months of his operational career in Dorset. After several periods of remedial work the handler and trainer in Dorset made the decision to release him from operational duty because of a lack of boldness and inconsistency in his tracking.

Having watched Comet being born in our house and watching him develop through his puppyhood I knew that he was a very confident and steady dog. Having also watched him perform on his boldness assessments at 12 months of age I knew that genetically he was not lacking in boldness. He had certainly never displayed a lack of boldness when he was with his puppy walkers.

I also knew his tracking was good on the development sessions with his puppy walkers. He is pictured here tracking with Dawn in his early months.

Clearly he had not performed for his handler Andy and his trainers as they would have wanted him too. But my gut feeling was that stress was in all probability the cause for his deterioration in performance and confidence. 

Having trained him on his Initial Police dog course my feeling was that he was a very intelligent dog but very immature in his development. He was also handler sensitive as a lot of intelligent dogs are and was therefore a dog who needed a patient approach with lots of positive feedback from his handler and lots of reassurance and lots of play.   
Here he is in happier times with his beloved puppy walker Dawn (far right) and his litter mates Charley, Cosmic and Chaos and their puppy walkers just before being allocated to their new handlers in January 2016.

As I have done with previous dogs in similar circumstances I decided to find a puppy walker to look after him for 3 months to allow him to regain his confidence and to then reassess whether there was still a possibility of a Police career for Comet.

Fortunately I had instructed Comet on his original Police dog course and also on that course were Cornwall dog Sgt James Little and the current environmental Police dog trainer for Cornwall Tim Goodwin.

On hearing of Comets demise both knew of his potential and character from seeing him on the course. They also knew that Cornwall handler Jason Gilbert’s dog Sam was close to retirement and that he would soon be looking for a replacement dog.

They suggested to Jason that Comet was well worth a second chance and Jason was keen to give him that chance. Jason took Comet into his home and he immediately settled in with his family and older Police dog Sam.

Jason and Comet are pictured here with his Sgt James Little and his dog Cosmic on a training day during his rehabilitation period.

After a number of months rehabilitation, bonding and training Jason’s supervisor Sgt James Little and area trainer Tim Goodwin were sufficiently impressed with Comet to arrange a 2 week relicensing course. At the end of the course Jason and Comet were assessed by independent Home office Police dog Instructor and assessor PC Jim Watkins from Gwent Police dog section.

Comet and Jason passed with flying colours and the assessor was particularly impressed with Comets tracking performance. Jason and his developmental trainer Tim Goodwin are pictured here on the day the team successfully achieved their operational Police dog license.

I have no criticism of his former handler Andy who has since graduated with another dog Reggie from our puppy program and they are doing well. Neither do I criticise his trainers because clearly Comet was not performing as he should have.

I have nothing but praise for Sgt James Little and Trainer Tim Goodwin for their support to both Comet and Handler Jason Gilbert. I know Jason very well having seen his handling skills at close hand and know him to be a very patient, calm, good humoured and compassionate handler who has completely turned Comet around.

I have watched the team during their Rehabilitation period  I cannot praise Jason enough both for the job he has done and the standard he has achieved.

 It is now down to Comet to respond and if he again finds the job of being a Police dog too stressful then everyone has done everything possible to give him a second chance.

Having seen the bond, communication and connection between them I am very confident that stress is very unlikely to be an issue and they will have a very good future together.  Good luck to both of them.

Duke Finds His New Home After A Huge Response To Our Appeal

I am pleased to report that Duke has found a great new home after a huge response. He is pictured above with his new family Kyle, Vikki and daughter Tia ‘Rose.

The family visited my house a week last Friday and on seeing his reaction to their daughter Tia ‘Rose they fell in love with him. We all then travelled to their home in Plymouth and settled him into his new home.

His mum Sasha and pal Rudi will miss him after his month long stay with us. 

I know that Duke will miss his daily romps with Rudi who is the same age as him. Duke is pictured here in our garden with mum Sasha. 

Kyle is a detective in Plymouth and his dad used to be an MOD Police dog handler before retirement which means that Kyle has good advice readily on hand.

After giving Duke time to settle in I took the opportunity on Friday to spend time with Kyle and Duke to give him some advice and guidance on handling and training.

We went up to the common in Plymouth to teach Duke that on their walks he should ignore livestock and other dogs. 

This was achieved on a long training line and combined with play and search exercises with his tugger toy and ball.

His focus to work and desire for his toy is very strong which made it very easy to achieve with almost instantaneous results. We then went to an urban estate to do some work on walking him on a loose lead and again because of his focus to play this was also easy to achieve.

Kyle has ambitions one day to become a Police dog handler and I imagine working and training with Duke will no doubt help towards achieving that goal.

Kyle and Duke are pictured here after a very successful morning and hopefully we can do some further training sessions in the future. 

New Puppies Eric And Elsa Join The Dog Section

On Monday last week I travelled up to meet the breeder of  Kazzardsway German shepherds Bernard Horton in Droylsden Manchester to collect from him 2 eight week old  German shepherd puppies for our September 2018 Police dog course.

The pups had been registered as Mario and Megan but we have renamed them Eric and Elsa. (Pictured above)

I saw some of the other pups in the litter and I have to say they were a very fine litter of pups in terms of their confidence, character, construction and they had clearly been well reared and looked after.

I conveyed the pups to my house where they stayed with me for a couple of days for assessment before allocation. Here is Eric getting a full check up at the vets 

They are both very confident and playful pups and I have been very impressed with both of them. They enjoyed digging up a mole hill and playing in our garden.

I then took Eric to his new puppy walkers Mark and Terri Boswell in Plymouth.

Elsa will be staying with me. Both had their first night on their own and both coped extremely well with little or no crying which bodes well.

Sasha has already taken Elsa under her wing and as you can see from the video she is mothering her just like she did with her own pups last year.

Little Elsa has also taken a shine to Rudi but I can never leave them for a second because they are like big and mini mischief. Also Rudi is just too big and powerful and could easily accidentally injure little Elsa.

On Saturday I took Elsa into Exeter city centre for a short trip. I obviously had to carry her due to her not yet being fully inoculated but nothing seemed to faze or bother her. She certainly made one old chaps day, he didn’t want to give her back.

We still have to acquire 4 further pups for that course and in a fortnight I will be collecting 2 females now aged 13 weeks from Arndt Muller in Germany who are hopefully going to be part of our breeding program.

All Of Our Pups Have Been Busy Practising And Preparing For The Devon County Show
Over the last few weeks all of the pups have been practising for their appearance at this year’s Devon county show. We will be performing  a short agility display and some focus work prior to the main display by the operational Police dogs.

ON THURSDAY  Tag, Tara and Tammy will be appearing at the show. They are pictured above after our training session last week. 
During the session we recorded some video of Tag doing the agility ramps and the tunnel under the supervision of mum, Marina and Seth.

Tara is pictured here showing good concentration on her tracking work.

Tammy, Tara and Tag are pictured here practising their sit and down work.

ON FRIDAY  Oscar, Ozzie and Ollie pictured above will be appearing at the show. 
Ollie is pictured here making the ramps look easy.

Oscar is pictured here showing intense concentration watching a trail being laid for him to follow.

Ozzie and Ollie are pictured here doing their down work.

Oscar showing lovely focus and attentiveness.

 The D litter and mum Sasha will be appearing. They are pictured above on today’s training session. Front left to right are Donna, Dizzy, Danno and rear left to right are Devon, Daisy and mum Sasha. 
In addition to practising their agility and control work we also did our usual tracking exercises. All 5 of the group performed exceptional tracking today. They have obviously inherited this from their father Lenny. I cannot remember a group of pups that have tracked as well as these pups did today.
You can see the intense concentration with a low nose of Devon, Donna and Danno on their tracks today. 

I have included a video of Dizzy doing her track today. I could have used video of any of the pups because they were all excellent. Note the intense concentration and determination. We have been using food dropped at intervals along the track but we are now ready to introduce the toy at the end of the track which will increase the speed of the tracks.

For those of you unfamiliar just what tracking is I will explain. It is getting the dog to follow the exact trail left by a person having walked across an area of ground.
We are all looking forward to attending the Devon county show and I will compile a blog next week showing you how we all got on.
From Rudi, Sasha and Elsa bye for now.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

In this weeks blog everyone is extremely well behaved!

  • Tara, Tag, Tammy, Oscar, Ozzie and Ollie  are all extemely well behaved on their visit to Saundercroft Farm    
  • Duke has been released from the puppy program and the priority now is to find him a new home

Tara, Tag, Tammy, Oscar, Ozzie and Ollie  are all extemely well behaved on their visit to Saundercroft Farm   

My favourite development day is our visit to Saundercroft Farm.

Here are the January 2018 Initial Police dog candidates arriving for their introduction to all of the farm animals which included horses, sheep, lambs, cows, calves, chickens and their 10 year old farm dog GSD Holly.

The gang were a little rowdy on their arrival but soon calmed down and were all very well behaved and sensible.

First port of call was the sheep which included lambs and a very tame sheep called Al who was bottle fed as a baby. Andi an Exeter Police dog handler lives on the farm with her partner Simon, their recently born son Will and Andi’s mum  who owns the farm.

All of the 6 pups were very confident and a  couple were a little vocal to start with. We employed our usual strategy of ignoring the sheep but doing some sit and down exercises and basically getting the pups to switch off and become bored.

You can see here that 4 year old Seth and his 8 year old sister Marina took the opportunity to bottle feed the lambs and the objective had been achieved with the pups ie they had switched off.

Ollie is pictured here showing a very relaxed and sensible approach to meeting the sheep and Marina is not letting go of her baby lamb for anything

We gradually got all of the pups closer to the sheep and lambs.

Andi made sure the sheep were hungry and with the use of her bucket of food worked her magic.

Ozzie is the noisy one on the right but he did settle down.

Then it was off to the sheds to see the calves and a very large bull.

Ollie, Oscar and Ozzie were completely bombproof and certainly were not fazed by the calves or the bull.

Tammy, Tara and Tag were equally confident and Tara certainly wasn’t backward in coming forward with the bull.

On the way to meeting the chickens we stopped by to meet the horses.

Next a well-earned water break before the rooster and his chickens.

It is very important for Police dogs to be completely neutral to livestock because they are required to search and track regularly in rural areas. They need to concentrate on the job in hand and not be distracted by livestock.

Here is Tammy sensibly taking it all in which was very impressive considering how tempting it is for a dog to chase chickens.

She was soon joined by Tag who came down to check out the chickens and no doubt to check on his best mate Marina.

We introduced the pups to the chickens two at a time until all the pups were settled with them.

Our German imports Tara, Tammy and Tag now 7 months old.

We all had a great day and I was very impressed with all of the pups in terms of their confidence and how relaxed and sensible they all were. Here we all are having a final group photo as a reminder of our day.

From left to right are Andi & big Al, Ozzie, Tammy, Tara, Ollie, Oscar, Tag, baby lamb with Seth and Marina, farm dog Holly and baby Will out for the count.

Then it was time for us to leave after another very enjoyable day and hopefully some tired and; contented pups. Marina and Tag joined at the hip as always.

Duke has been released from the puppy program and the priority now is to find him a new home

The bad news is that we are releasing Duke from our puppy program because he does not have the necessary level of confidence required to be a Police dog.

Duke was one of our D litter which consisted of 3 males and 6 females. He was never as forward and assertive as his two litter brothers Devon and Danno but there were no clues that he might be too sensitive to be a Police dog.

Here he is at 8 weeks when he was a happy playful independent puppy with no obvious areas of concern.

Up until 4 or 5 months he was no different to his littermates on our puppy development sessions happy to engage and no signs of stress. Here he is 3rd from left with his littermates and puppy walker Lyn.

Around that time I had to find a home for Bevan an older pup in our puppy program whose previous puppy walkers had handed him back to us because they couldn’t cope. I placed him with Dukes puppy walker Lyn my most experienced puppy walker as a temporary measure.

Bevan and Duke got on very well together and Duke enjoyed his training sessions. He is pictured here on the right with his sister Dizzi and brother Devon.

Around 7 months of age I noticed he was becoming very clingy to Lyn and her son Ian on our training sessions. This clinginess continued on our subsequent development sessions.

He also displayed a caution and sensitivity to certain sounds. Although Bevan eventually left Lyn for a new home and Duke was on his own again things didn’t improve.

Running alongside Bevan would not have helped his development but it shouldn’t have caused the sensitivities and caution he displayed.

Approximately a month ago I took Duke home with me to assess and evaluate him closely and see if I could improve things. He immediately settled in with my 2 dogs Rudi and his mum Sasha. Here they are enjoying the wheat fields near me.

Rudi and Duke are the same age and are inseparable always happily playing together and usually attached to the same log they have found.

When he first came to me he was quite cautious going into new situations and of engaging with people he hadn’t met before. This quickly improved and he is now a much more confident dog.

Here are Duke and Rudi playing in the garden together.

I have assessed Duke in a wide range of different situations to assess his general confidence and I have assessed his desire to work in terms of his tracking, searching and will to win a fight when tugging and biting.

He has an incredibly high drive for work and is potentially as good as any young dog of his age.  But he does have a caution in his nature particularly to certain noises, unfamiliar situations and an aversion to shiny floor surfaces.

Unfortunately that rules him out as a Police dog because he is highly likely to find some situations stressful and in my opinion it is unfair to place him in those positions.

I introduced him to cows and he didn’t run away and he didn’t try to attack them or show aggression but he sensibly watched them from a comfortable distance.

Compare this to Rudi who is a much more forward dog who felt compelled to join the cows and even invited them to play.

Another example of his caution was when I began hitting a metal locker with an iron bar Duke withdrew immediately and kept his distance. A sensible reaction in a pet dog but a Police dog should want to investigate any unusual occurrence.

When I repeated this with Rudi he found the noise very exciting and tried to grab the metal pole from my hand.

I have loved having Duke and we have had a lot of fun together. He loves swimming particularly if it involves a floating log.

He is a very responsive dog who has the most incredible focus if he thinks you are going to play or work with him.

I watched Duke being born and raised at our home and my priority now is to find him a good home. He loves it here at our house and is clearly not in a hurry to leave. Here he is with mum Sasha keen to go off on our daily adventures.

Here he is romping in the wheat fields with Sasha and Rudi.

Here he is swimming in a local river.

As a dog he has many excellent qualities and craves that one on one relationship that German shepherds do.

He is a very energetic, biddable, playful young dog and with a patient caring handler who provides the necessary leadership will be a joy to own.

Just because a dog is not suited to the role of a Police dog is in no way a slur on his/her character. After all we are not all cut out to be Royal Marines.

So from Duke and me see you next time.