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Monday, 6 July 2015

The moment of truth for trainee police dogs Elvis, Duke and Gizzy (now Zak )

Elvis (picture taken 24/06/15)
Duke (picture taken 24/06/15)
Gizzy (picture taken 24/06/15)
Elvis at 7 weeks
Duke at 7 weeks
Gizzy at 7 weeks
This week was a week of mental torture for the puppy walkers of our 3 brothers Elvis, Duke and Gizzy as they waited to see if their boys who they had cared for, developed, and loved over the previous 8 months were going to be successful on their final 10 month assessment.

This is the final hurdle for them to overcome before they are allocated to their new dog handlers to start their 13 week long initial police dog course in September this year.

The 2 day assessment is quite intense looking at their general confidence, boldness, hunting ability, tracking ability, determination, persistence, willingness, enthusiasm, and most important of all their temperament. All of these things are so important to be a modern day police dog.

Pictured here is Gizzy (Zak) not finding life particularly stressful and taking things in his stride during his assessment.
Having watched and supervised the pups growing up I already had a very good idea how they were going to do on their 2 day final assessment and they didn't disappoint me because they were outstanding in every department.
Elvis (MINE)
Elvis couldn't be any more determined here grabbing a bite bar with obvious tenacity and demonstrating a will to win and keep it.
Elvis (Definitely MINE!)

His brothers duke and gizzy were just as determined.
Duke (This is the way to do it! And I think you'll find its MINE.)
Duke is pictured here showing obvious desire, confidence and commitment.

During the 2 days we assess their confidence in different types of day to day situations such as going into a busy city centre, walking alongside busy roads, negotiating all types of different stairs, shiny floors, their ability to cope with loud and unusual noises.
Gizzy
Gizzy is seen here playing happily with his tugger toy just before a loud 38 revolver is fired in close proximity to see how it affects him.

Some dogs hardly acknowledge the noise some will go over and investigate the sound. What we do not want is a dog that is adversely affected which is usually confirmed by the dog being unable to resume playing with his/her toy.
Gizzy (What was that!)
As you can see Gizzy registered the noise
Gizzy (Do you mind, I was in the middle of something!)

but then resumed play completely unfazed.

Another exercise we do is to take the dog on a general walk when nearby a loud and aggressive crowd start shouting at each other but not at the dog. The dog is not trained to deal with this but we are looking for the dog that is excited and keen to see what is going on.

Gizzy (What was that!!)
Pictured above Gizzy is showing exactly that. As far as he is concerned this disturbance of the queens peace is very exciting and needs to be investigated.

Gizzy (OK, what's happening )
When he gets to the crowd you can see his obvious confidence and direct eye contact towards the group who have been briefed to quieten down on the dogs approach.

As expected all of the dogs were outstanding when assessed on their ability to search for articles or property and their ability to follow the trail of a person who has left the area which we call tracking.
The pups are trained to do this on each development session every fortnight.

Elivs (It smells yukky)
Elvis is pictured above searching for a used shotgun cartridge hidden in the grass which he quickly locates.
They are also trained when searching for someone to bark once they have located them to alert the handler. Duke is being trained here to bark at the person he has found.
Duke (Well that was easy)
You can see here that dukes expression tells Alan he is not a dog to be messed around even at this early age.

The final part of the assessment tests the dogs ability to deal with and recover from a stressful situation. It is obviously very important that an operational police dog is able to do this. However at 10 months of age the German Shepherd is still mentally very immature and so we have to be very careful how we assess this.  For my own interest I have regularly repeated these tests when the dog is nearer 2 years old and I have found the dog is much more able to deal with the situation. I believe it is similar to the difference between a 14 year old boy and a mature man.

Test 1 the dog is allowed to run free along a wooded path when a stranger jumps out from behind a tree with something above his head like a sack and stands still. All dogs with few exceptions will take flight which is called flight distance. There is a wide variation of flight reaction between each dog depending on how bold he/she is.
Elvis (What's that?)
Elvis is doing a good job here of holding his ground and issuing a threat towards the person.

The critical behaviour that I am looking for is the dogs ability to recover once the man removes the threat and behaves normally. If the dog will not approach the person when the handler engages in conversation with the person then that is a fail for that test.
Duke (Oh its you, hi)
Duke can be seen here going over to investigate the person who has moved back and removed his sack. The response and reaction from all 3 dogs was exceptional for their young age.

We drum into our handlers on their initial police dog courses how important it is to look after their young dogs and not to push them into situations that they are not mature enough to deal with. Be patient it will come given time.

The second boldness test involves walking the dog through a wood where a flowerpot man lies on the floor attached to a rope and when the dog gets close to the flowerpot man he is hoisted suddenly into the air taking the dog by surprise.
Duke (UHMM, What!)
Duke has stood his ground here with an excellent reaction.

Again lots of dogs will initially run away as this is a natural reaction. The flowerpot man is then lowered to the floor to give the dog the chance to recover and investigate it. None of our 3 dogs ran away all of them stood their ground.

So there you have it all 3 dogs passed with flying colours and for me are 3 of the best young dogs I have seen for some time.

My congratulations and thanks to the puppy walkers for their hard work and devotion in getting the boys to such an excellent level.

Elvis – Susannah Coffin
Duke – lyn Parlour
Gizzy – Annie Millar

Here are a couple of pics and a video of the boys at my house before being allocated to their puppy walkers when they were only 7 weeks old.



Finally don't forget keep your dogs out of cars in this hot weather they would much rather be at home in the paddling pool.

Here is duke doing exactly that relaxing after his successful 2 day assessment.



See you next time from Paul and Qwendi
Qwendi and Paul

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