Monday 9 June 2014

Preparing our police dogs to be reliable, confident and safe working amongst livestock and patrolling in towns and city centres. How important it is?

Devon & Cornwall Police dog section have always attached great importance to their dog teams performing high visibility foot patrols in the towns and city centres. These patrols provide public reassurance and they also perform another vital function ensuring our dogs remain social and safe to approaches from people in day to day situations.

Our dogs often have to deal with crowd disorder particularly outside licensed premises and at football matches and so it is important that they remain stable and grounded by not seeing all crowds as a threat situation. This is why even though it is not part of the National Police dog training Syllabus we include this training on our Initial Police dog Course. This builds on all the good work our puppy walkers do getting the pups used to crowds.

Pictured above are some of our pups undergoing socialisation in Exeter city centre together.

Also pictured is Simon and Charlie on our current Initial Police dog course walking amongst the Exeter city crowds in a totally confident and relaxed manner. Although Charlie is relaxed his handler Simon cannot switch off as he must at all times be watching and looking around for any unexpected situations or surprises such as a skateboarder coming up behind or a loose dog.

The current Initial Police dog course are pictured here 2 weeks ago undergoing some environmental city centre training.  From left to right are Simon and Police dog Charlie, Carla and Police dog Arry and Mark with Police dog Axel.

I am pleased to announce that Simon and Charlie have just successfully completed their Initial Police dog course and will be leaving our course as a fully accredited Police dog team to serve in North Devon.

Simon is pictured here earlier in the course with his dog Charlie.

In addition to all the work that is undertaken ensuring our pups and Police dogs are confident and relaxed amongst large crowds we also do a lot of work ensuring that our pups and Police dogs are confident, reliable and not distracted  when  coming into contact with livestock. All of the pups in our puppy programme are introduced to livestock in controlled conditions.

An operational Police dog has to work in rural areas and will regularly come into contact with livestock and it is vitally important that the handler can have confidence that his dog is not going to be distracted from his/her work whether it be searching or tracking outstanding criminals or missing persons.

Again working with livestock is not included in the National Police dog training curriculum but because of the large rural areas in our force we believe this type of training will be of real benefit to our operational dogs.

If you refer to previous blogs you will see that in our puppy development programme we already introduce all of our pups to livestock down on the farm. In addition I carry out rural schooling with our pups on a line through sheep, cows, horses and ponies prior to their official Police dog training.
I have included some pictures taken this week of Ava from our A litter and Blade and Buddy from our B litter now aged 6 months being schooled through livestock.

The above pictures shows Ava calmly walking through sheep and cattle.

The above picture shows Blade walking through sheep and cattle.

The above shows Buddy with Lindsay and Anthony with the ponies on Dartmoor.

It was such a beautiful day I thought I would include my lovely girl Molly who is totally reliable in and around livestock hence she is not on a line near the ponies

and in the morning here I am doing some work with Molly’s daughter Bebe overlooking Exeter.

No article would be complete without the obligatory health and safety item and my blog is no exception. I therefore must point out that walking dogs through livestock comes with potential risks particularly with regard to cattle. We certainly do not expect our puppy walkers to walk our puppies through cattle and any such training is only carried out with a trained Police dog Instructor being present with the pup.

The advice given by the National farmers union holds good to always keep your dog on a lead around livestock and to let go of the lead and dog if chased by cattle. We have access to cattle who are generally placid but as with any animal things can always go wrong.

I have no doubt many of you will be interested in how we train the dogs not to chase or attempt to chase livestock because as you will probably realise it is a perfectly natural thing for a dog to want to do if given the opportunity.

When schooling a dog through livestock the dog is on a 10 foot long strong rope attached to his/her leather collar . The handler holds the rope by the rope handle and the rest of the line trails on the floor. If the dog tries to surge forward the handler stands on the line with a firm ‘NO’ command and the dog will receive a jolt which tells the dog the handler does not like what the dog is doing.

Puppy walker Ed is pictured here with Ava in the perfect position walking through cows.

With a persistent dog the handler will hold the end loop with both hands and as the dog hits the end of the line this will deliver a very strong jolt and nearly always stops the dog from repeating his/her actions.

I have included photo’s of Arry and Axel (From the A litter) our remaining 2 dogs on the Initial Police dog course undergoing rural schooling through sheep and cattle approximately 1 week ago.

 The above show Axel working through cattle and sheep.

The above show Arry working through cattle and sheep.

Axel was extremely biddable and well behaved in this session and very little force was needed. Arry was not so easily deterred particularly with the sheep and a water spray was used directly into his face and this prevented any further attempts by Arry to chase. We do have other more unpleasant sprays which are not harmful to the dog and are health and safety approved but these are rarely if ever needed.

The key to success as is the case with all dog training is patience, perseverance, consistency and repeating the training until the habit is formed.

Hope this article has been of interest to you. See you next time.

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