Friday, 21 August 2020

Update on the progress of the F litter and other news as we move towards the start of the initial police dog course in September

Having missed out on several months training during the Pandemic lockdown the F litter have since been working hard to catch up. They have also been undergoing assessments to see which dogs will be allocated to their new Police dog handlers in time for the start of the Initial Police dog course which begins on the 7th of September.

Here are all of the teams on their recent training and suitability assessments.


From left to right are puppy walkers Simon with TPD Floyd, Sarah with TPD Fendi and Sarah & Dave with TPD Flint


From left to right are puppy walkers Andy with TPD Freddy, Terry and Jill with TPD Flo and Lyn and John with TPD Fozzy


From left to right are puppy walkers Rich with TPD Franky, Jeanette with TPD Freya and Colin with TPD Finni

Before I give an update on how the F litter did on their final assessments, I will bring you up to date on what we have been up to since our last blog at the end of March.

THE LOCKDOWN

Up until the start of the lockdown the F litter teams had reached an exceptionally high standard with their training. Left to right here are TPD Freddy, TPD Floyd and TPD Freya training their group down stay when they were 8 months old.


At the start of the lockdown the litter were 9 months old and I was concerned that our puppy walkers might struggle stuck in their homes coping with powerful enthusiastic German shepherds and only being allowed one walk a day.

Fortunately social media was our saviour because I was able to post video’s of TPD Ace who was living with me doing basic training exercises which our puppy walkers could watch and practice with their own pups. Here is TPD Ace practicing his down stay exercise with distractions.


We used a WhatsApp group chat forum where the puppy walkers could see videos of Ace training and they could then video their own training with their own dog and post it on the WhatsApp site. I was then able  to see how their training was going.

Here is Simon practicing his down stay with TPD Floyd.


As the weeks went on the puppy walkers were achieving incredible progress with their dogs. It definitely created a real group bond and their dedication and hard work produced some exceptional results.

Here is Jeanette practicing with TPD Freya on the down stay with distractions.


Here is Andy doing the grooming and examination challenge with TPD Freddy.


Here is Rich showing that he can still lift TPD Franky which is something he has continued since he was a tiny puppy. Operationally handlers need to be able lift their dogs over various obstacles and it is important if possible to get the dogs used to it an early stage. 

Obviously when the dogs get to this size I cannot expect all puppy walkers to be able to lift their dogs like this.

Here is TPD Flint doing some basic agility in the garden.


There was no limit to the improvisation of the puppy walkers to continue with their training despite the restrictions.

Here is Rich doing a little heel and control work on his daily walk with TPD Franky.  You can see TPD Franky is thinking what’s this all about lets just splash about like we normally do.


Here is TPD Flint showing that all of Sarah’s recall work has paid off as he performs a top class recall on the beach. If he hasn’t got an emergency recall on his Initial Police dog course someone will have some explaining to do.


Here is Simon getting in some formal recall work on his daily walk next to the waves.


We did a lot of stay work during the lock down because this is the bedrock of so much of the work the operational handlers will do. Here is Jill putting TPD Flo into a down stay while she puts out a toy for her to search and find.


The puppy walkers did lots of training challenges during lockdown

All of the training challenges that the puppy walkers undertook and all the pictures and videos sent in by the puppy walkers were all posted on twitter @DC_PoliceDogs and are well worth a look.

 

 

F LITTER ASSESSMENTS

We were permitted to resume training on an individual basis at the end of May and started catching up on the person searching and criminal work that we hadn’t been able to do.

By the end of June the teams were ready for their assessments and I have to say the commitment, dedication and hard work from every single puppy walker in this incredible group of puppy walkers has been quite humbling and something special to have been a part of.

All of the dogs in our puppy program are continually assessed from the age they go to their puppy walkers at 9 weeks right up to their final assessments which take place around 12 months of age.

Here are some of the pups undergoing environmental development in Exeter city centre in their early months.

Freya

Finni

Fendi

Freddy


Flint & Fendi

 

FINAL ASSESSMENTS

The pups have come a long way since those early days. They are now 13 months old and they have all recently had their hips x rayed to make sure they are suitable to withstand the rigors of operational Police dog work. Im happy to report that all 9 of the F litter have excellent working hips.

I started their final assessments in July on their ability in Tracking, person searching, article searching, criminal work, focus and control, boldness and environmental confidence.

Environmental confidence and boldness

It is important that our dogs are very confident, bold and resilient if they are to fully enjoy the rough and tumble of life as an operational Police dog.

Resilience is particularly important because as operational Police dogs they will need to be able to withstand or recover from difficult situations and conditions.

Here is TPD Flo making her way down some very steep steps.

Here is TPD Floyd confidently making his way up some very steep spiral steps which wind their way up for a very long way..


Here is TPD Finni happily playing tug with me on a slippery table top. 


An issue for some dogs is walking on shiny or slippery floor surfaces. All of the F litter have been very confident up until now but this strange phenomenon very often doesn’t occur until they are over 12 months old.

I’m happy to say they all assessed as very confident on all of the different floor surfaces.

TPD Freya was not concerned with the floors in this building and happily jumped up onto and off several table tops.


Here is TPD Fozzy showing strong nerves in a room he has never been before with lots of noises to contend with. 


Here are TPD’s Fozzy, Flo and Franky being assessed on their reaction to gunfire. Ideally we want a dog who is confident and not fearful or overly sensitive to gunfire.


Fozzy and Franky were completely unconcerned and although TPD Flo did react she did so in a confident assertive way and if she had been off lead she would have gone straight up to the gun to investigate.

The assessment includes several boldness tests. One of the boldness tests involves the puppy walker taking the dog for a walk and during the walk a figure jumps out from behind a tree and takes the dog by surprise.

We are looking to see that the dog does not run away and recovers his/her composure after the initial startle. TPD Finni recovered very quickly. A dog that is unable to recover and continues to show apprehension and fear when the helper is no longer a threat would be a fail.


Most of the dogs were not fazed at all and instantly approached the figure after he jumped out.

A weaker dog will not go forward at all and retreats to a safe distance with all their hackles up and will not join their handler.

This is not a pass or fail test as to whether a dog is released from the program. We will take into account how confident the dog has been environmentally throughout his/her puppyhood.

We would also look at how strong he/she was in terms of its nerves and how much promise the dog shows in the working exercises such as tracking, searching and criminal work.  

Tracking is probably the most important exercise for our General purpose Police dogs and all 9 have passed the requirement to successfully complete a 5 minute old trail with a minimum of 3 changes of direction on the track.

Here is Sarah tracking with TPD Fendi who is concentrating so hard she is oblivious to Sarah’s son Archie following on also recording it on his phone. 


Here is TPD Freya hot on the trail with Jeanette.


All 9 of the F litter have natural tracking ability.

The most advanced tracking dog in the group is TPD Flo pictured here having just found her toy hidden at the end of her track with her puppy walkers Terry and Jill.


I did several months tracking work with TPD Flo before she went to Terry and Jill. Here she is completing a track with me around 7 months of age.


Here is Simon with TPD Floyd completing his assessment track very successfully.


Person searching

Another exercise we train the dogs to do is to search and locate an outstanding vulnerable missing person or hidden criminal by barking and indicating to their handler that they have located them.

Here is TPD Finni in the early stages of getting her to bark at a person she has located.


Here is Rich searching with TPD Franky who locates and barks at the helper hiding up a tree.


All of the dogs now understand the person search exercise. They understand the handler challenge and on being sent forward to search will locate the person and bark without making any physical contact with the person they have located. Here is TPD Fozzy demonstrating this.


Article searching

We also teach the dogs to search for outstanding articles which could be items that are lost, hidden or discarded articles which are the subject of crime. We need the dogs to have a high and determined search drive and to be tenacious enough to work in challenging areas such as in thick undergrowth.

Here is TPD Flo showing all of those qualities.


Criminal work

We also train the dogs to confidently chase and bite a helper wearing a padded sleeve before they progress to the Initial course. All of the dogs love this exercise.

The boys are definitely more advanced on this exercise than the girls. Here are TPD Flint and TPD Floyd highly excited and oblivious to the film crew who have been following us.


TPD Flint was a little bit slow in progressing on his bitework but that is changing as he gains his confidence.



TPD Franky had to have a baby tooth removed as a puppy which caused some minor damage to his upper left adult canine. He has since had a cap fitted to protect it but you would never know it.


TPD Floyd doesn’t hold back on this exercise.


There is certainly no problem with TPD Fozzy’s commitment also.


I think the girls will catch the boys up in this area of their work once they have all had their first season. TPD Flo and TPD Fendi have only just had their first season aged 13 months and TPD Finni and TPD Freya have not had their first season yet.

None of the girls lack enthusiasm for this exercise they just havnt been as tenacious as the boys. That is starting to change as you can see here with TPD Flo on our last training day .


TPD Fendi and TPD Finni are not far behind but just needed a little more basic pad work.



Control and Focus work

All of the teams can place their dogs into a down stay then return to their dogs kneel down alongside them and then reward them as demonstrated here with Andy and TPD Freddy and Jill with TPD Flo.



They have progressed to being able leave their dogs in a down stay while they add distractions such as moving items around and the dogs will remain in the down.

They can also place their dog in the down stay and then go and hide their toy in full view of the dog then return and they will stay in the down until given the command to search for their toy and return it.

They can bring their dogs into the heel sit position then perform heelwork including halting in the sit and down as demonstrated here by Andy and TPD Freddy.


Here is Jill demonstrating the perfect heel position with a nice loose lead.


They all have very good environmental recalls and also formal recalls where they can leave their dog in a sit and recall them to the front and can finish by bringing them into the heel position.

Summary of their Assessments

All of the dogs in the F litter assessed as environmentally confident. They all have natural tracking ability and they all have enthusiastic outgoing personalities. The girls have all been slow to show the tenacity that I would like to see in their bite work.

Up until July none of the girls had had their first season and although I have no scientific evidence to back it up I am convinced that the 4 girls are still very immature because of that. TPD Flo and TPD Fendi have now had their seasons and both have improved significantly with their bite work and are now more assertive.

I have decided to put forward the following 6 F litter dogs to be allocated to their handlers for the September GP Initial Police dog course which starts on the 7th of September.

TPD FLOYD pictured here with puppy walker Simon and his daughter Krista


TPD FOZZY pictured with puppy walker Lyn and son Ian.


TPD FLINT pictured with puppy walkers Sarah and David.


TPD FREDDY pictured with puppy walker Andy and previous puppy walkers Karen and Rod.


TPD  FRANKY pictured with puppy walkers Leah and Rich.


TPD FLO pictured with puppy walkers Terry and Jill.


TPD FENDI, TPD FINNI & TPD FREYA

I have decided that the remaining 3 girls will remain in the program with a view to preparing them for the 2021 January Initial Police dog course. My instincts are that TPD Fendi and Finni will mature into excellent Police dog candidates.

TPD Freya is probably the only one of the F litter who hasn’t up until now shown the determination in her play and can quickly lose interest in tugging and search games.

She had these qualities as a young puppy and I have seen some recent improvement. She has also had a long battle with gastroenteritis issues which now seem to have settled down. She has so many good qualities that I intend to wait until she has had her first season and see if things improve. If not her puppy walkers would like to keep her.

TPD Fendi is pictured her with puppy walker Sarah


TPD Finni is pictured here with puppy walkers Mitzi and Colin


TPD Freya is pictured here with puppy walkers Jeanette and Phil


 

This journey with the F litter and their puppy walkers has been just the most incredible experience and is one I will treasure forever. I would like to thank all of our exceptional puppy walkers for their dedication and hard work.

I will be doing follow up blogs on the progress of the dogs on the course.

 

TPD ACE

TPD Ace had been with me and Ella since early January and it is no exaggeration to say he is one of the happiest and most outstanding dogs that I have had come through my hands. He got along really well with Ella and they would happily chew on their bones with no squabbles or fights.


Ella is a very strong female who has seen many dogs come and go and they all instinctively know not to push her too far. Here is an amusing video of TPD Ace desperate to get the wooden log that Ella  has and goes into an amazing distraction dance which as usual gets him nowhere.


This is TPD Ace on only his second meeting with the young bullocks at Killerton. His reaction speaks volumes for his well balanced and confident character.


TPD Ace left us on Monday 29th June to go to his new handler Scott Perkins. Scott is a handler I have a lot of respect for and I know that he and TPD Ace will achieve great things together.


When he left me his Tracking, Article searching and obedience was already at an end of Initial course licensing standard and he will probably now only need a shortened Initial course. I am proud of having prepared him for the next stage of his journey and I will never forget our time together.





 

NEW RECRUITS TPD BRUNO & TPD KAIN

 


We have known for some time now that we would probably need more than the usual 4 dogs for our September 2020 Initial Police dog course because so many handlers have left the section prematurely for a variety of reasons.

We now need 9 dogs which is why we took on TPD Ace in January and why we have also purchased the above 2 dogs from Lorokmor working dogs in Shropshire.

Bruno aged 18 months and Kain aged 16 months have been imported by Lorockmor from working kennels in Poland arriving 10 days ago. I collected them yesterday and although they  were understandably a little shell shocked they are both very happy confident dogs who both clearly just want someone to be their friend and give them some stability.

As soon as I got home I was met by Camborne dog handler PC Amanda Swain who immediately fell in love with Bruno and took him home to Camborne ready for her course.


Kain will be staying with me and Ella until he is allocated a handler along with all of F litter dogs in 2 weeks time.

Apologies for such a lengthy Blog from Ella and me bye for now.


Tuesday, 7 April 2020

PD Jay, PD Rebel and PD Arnie our latest graduated operational GP Police Dogs


From left to right are PD Arnie with PC Dean Barker, PD Rebel with PC Dani Howett, PD Jay with PC Ed Harris and behind course Instructor PC Phil Wilson.

The course started on the 6th of January and was scheduled to run for 13 weeks but because of the Coronavirus in week eleven the course received 24 hours’ notice that they were being assessed the following day.

Fortunately the teams were already at a very high standard and so the lack of preparation time didn’t make any difference and after 2 days of rigid assessments on Thursday 19th and Friday 20th March they all passed with flying colours

 

The teams

PD Rebel and PC Dani Howlett

They will be posted to the Police dog section at Ferndown in Dorset.

PD Arnie and PC Dean Barker

They will be posted to the Devon and Cornwall Police dog section at Plymouth.

PD Jay and PC Ed Harris


They will also be posted to the Devon and Cornwall Police dog section at Plymouth.

Before I report on the teams and what the course entailed I will give you the background of how the dogs arrived at this point. 

 

Background of the dogs before their initial course

PD Rebel was born on the 5th August 2018 and was supplied to us by Lorokmor working dogs. He was allocated to experienced puppy walkers Terry and Jill Hodge on the 27th of September 2018.


PD Arnie and PD Jay were born on the 19th of August 2018 and bred by Bernard Horton of Kazzardsway German shepherds in Manchester.


They arrived in force on the 23rd of October 2018 and were allocated to first time puppy walkers

Andy Parsons and Stewart and Alison Fleming.


Andy is a serving Police officer within force who is hoping one day to join the Police dog section and is now puppy walking TPD Freddy from our F litter.

Stewart and Alison are both former members of the Royal signal Regiment where they met over 40 years ago and later married. They settled in Crediton just over 20 years ago with their 2 sons Rory and Jamie.

Rory still lives and works in Crediton. Their other son Jamie was a Lance corporal in the same

Regiment that his parents had served. Tragically Jamie died in 2014 after a collision with a lorry whilst travelling home on leave riding his motorbike aged just 21.


Stuart and Alison have previously had German shepherds but decided against getting another one because they go abroad fairly often and so decided the next best option was to puppy walk and give something to the community.

They named their puppy ‘ Jay’ after their son Jamie.


Here are the group on their first training day at HQ.


There were 5 pups in the group which included PD Rebel’s brother and sister Ginny and Rogue.

Sadly Ginny and Rogue who in my opinion would have made Police dogs had to be released from the scheme as adults because of moderate hip dysplacia.

Here they all are going through the tunnel for the first time.



We have fortnightly training development sessions for our trainee pups and all of the puppy walkers in the group rarely missed a session.

On top of all the environmental socialising that takes place the puppy teams also develop operational skills such as obedience, agility, tracking, searching and criminal work.

Here is TPD Arnie showing at an early age a talent for tracking with puppy walker Andy.

Here is TPD Jay showing a real determination and tenacity in his criminal work with puppy walker Stuart.

Here is TPD Rebel confidently negotiating the A frame and walkway with puppy walker Jill.


You will find more pictures and video’s in blog 1 of 2020 of the pups and their puppy walkers.

By November 2019 our puppy walkers and their dogs TPD Jay, TPD Arnie and TPD Rebel had achieved an incredible standard as a result of all the work they had put in.

By now new handlers Ed, Dean and Dani had been selected to handle the dogs on the January 2020 Initial Police dog course and they all came out with their course Instructor Phil Wilson on one of our last training days to meet the dogs.

In fact Phil came out for the last 3 of our training days to see what standard the puppy walkers and their dogs were at. Phil was very impressed with their standard and I know that it meant a lot to our puppy walkers that Phil had taken the time to see just what the puppy walkers had achieved.

I would like to say a huge thank you to our puppy walkers who have played such a big part in the journey and success of our newly licensed Police dogs PD Jay, PD Arnie and PD Rebel.



I am so pleased for Terry and Jill who worked so hard with PD Rebel. I am pleased for Andy with PD Arnie and I wish him luck in his quest to be a Police dog handler.

I am particularly pleased for Alison and Stewart with PD Jay because I know just how much it meant to them in memory of their son Jamie.

I have no doubt it has meant just as much to their other son Rory pictured here centre with a very young TPD Jay.

PD Jay has done the family and Jamie proud.

I have no doubt that Jay is in good hands with his handler Ed on the next stage of their journey.

 

Summary of the initial course

The 13 week course started on Monday 6th January 2020. Dean and Ed had already taken possession of their dogs TPD Arnie and TPD Jay over a month previously which gave them that all important time to bond and get to know their dogs.

Dani hadn’t been able to take possession of TPD Rebel until the day of the course and worse still Rebel cut his pad just before the course and had to wear a protective boot for several weeks and had to avoid any excessive exercise.


Add to this PD Rebel is quite a hyperactive dog who can be quite sensitive to new situations and when bored, overexcited or stressed has a tendency to chase his tail which has been a feature since he was very young.

He has been hard work for his puppy walkers but because his work has been extremely good throughout this time and he has a nice nature and doesn’t demonstrate the tail chasing when working we have persevered with him.

The first few weeks were extremely stressful for Dani trying to forge a bond and keep a very hyperactive dog quiet because of his cut pad.

Also going to her home at weekends was alien to TPD Rebel and he found that stressful also. I knew it would take TPD Rebel up to 6 weeks to settle into the routine and the course which is how it turned out.

I think that Dani deserves huge credit for her patience and perseverance in coping with the situation because I have no doubt a lot of new handlers would not have coped. Here is Dani in the early stages of tracking with TPD Rebel.

I would also like to highlight our Instructor Phil Wilson who because he took the time to come out and see the dogs training with their puppy walkers he was able to see for himself just what TPD Rebel was capable of in his work & stuck with him where others may not have.

While all this was going on TPD Jay with handler Ed and TPD Arnie with handler Dean were going from strength to strength.


Needless to say TPD Rebel and Dani gradually caught the others up and when I went out with the course in what turned out to be the final week all 3 dogs were performing at an extremely good level.

This was Instructor Phil Wilsons first Initial Police dog course and I think he should be congratulated on the standard he achieved with the teams and also for his achievement in providing calm, structured incremental progressive steps to bring out the best in PD Rebel.

It also once again demonstrates what can be achieved with that all important bond between dog and handler and why area commanders should be ensuring that Police officers are released to spend time with their dogs BEFORE the course starts.

The 13 week General purpose Initial Police dog course is without doubt the most demanding dog training course there is. The reason the course is so demanding is because of the wide range of skills, disciplines and diversity of different tasks that a General purpose Police dog has to master.

The dogs have been conditioned to follow tracks or trails of criminals who have left a crime scene or of vulnerable missing persons across all types of terrain.  Here is TPD Arnie and Dean setting off on a track which is half a mile long with 4 articles hidden on route which they have to locate.

PD Arnie is an excellent tracking dog who easily completed the task and was rewarded with quality play time with his handler Dean.

Once the dogs get onto a track the handlers need to be fit to keep up with them because they certainly don’t hang around.

They have learned to search for outstanding criminals and vulnerable missing persons using air scent.

They have learned to deal with violent volatile crowds and to defend their handler against attack in all circumstances. Here is PD Arnie showing he is more than ready to defend his handler against attack.

PD Jay never needs a second invitation to deal with a fleeing or violent criminal.


Here is TPD Jay showing his boldness and tenacity dealing with a criminal armed with a firearm.


They have also been trained to negotiate different obstacles and they have been schooled to perform control and focus exercises which are the foundation of all of their work.

Here are the teams practising group and individual focus work and also negotiating obstacles.( Show Pics








The dogs have also been trained to search for and locate items of property or articles discarded or hidden by criminals or items lost by members of the public. They are trained to indicate the items passively ie not to bite or mouth them to ensure any DNA is preserved.

Here is TPD Jay and TPD Arnie giving perfect indications on items that they have located. TPD Jay has found a wallet under the drum.

TPD Arnie has located a bunch of keys hanging on the fence.

One of the most difficult exercises for a Police dog to perform is the stand-off. This is where the dog is sent to detain a fleeing criminal but must not bite if the criminal stops running and gives up before the dog gets to him.

Here is PD Rebel giving an excellent demonstration of the exercise.



Anyone wanting to pursue the role of a Police dog handler quickly finds out that physical fitness, resilience, patience and determination will be required in abundance and just what a long and tough course the 13 week basic GP Police course is.

Here is Dani on a practical track with TPD Rebel negotiating obstacles with a dog who isn’t hanging around as he tracks down the offender wanted for a simulated burglary and deals with an attempted attack on his handler and afterwards a happy team after a job well done.






On the last occasion that I went out to see the course they had another week to prepare for their licensing assessments and another week for practical’s and to prepare for their passing out parade.

But because of the Coronavirus the day I was out with the course Phil the Instructor received a phone to say the course was being cut short and that the assessments were now the next day and that the passing out parade would not now take place.

The students didn’t have time to worry about the assessments and because they were so advanced in terms of preparation & performance they all passed with flying colours over the 2 day assessment.

All have now been operational for several weeks and Dean & PD Arnie have already had several operational successes. I’ve no doubt PD Jay and PD Rebel will soon follow suit.  

Hopefully we will all meet up again for a passing out parade to thank our puppy walkers sometime in the future.

In the meantime TPD Ace is with me and Ella for a few more months until a handler is available.



I hope to do a blog on TPD Ace’s progress and to show the work I am doing with him. Because of the Corona virus there is no group training with the F litter but we are corresponding on a WhatsApp social media group where we discuss training tasks that they can do at home.

You can follow us on Twitter @DC_PoliceDogs

From Ella, Ace and me bye for now.