Friday 20 February 2015

The C Litter Create Chaos In Exeter City Centre

Here we all are at the end of great day out in Exeter city centre. The cultured ones among you will know we are on the statue of Exeter’s famous son, writer and theologian Richard Hooker born in Heavitree in 1554. The statue is made of white pentilicon marble from Greece erected in 1907. To the uncultured like me it is the statue that spooked my Police dog as he walked passed it on patrol for the first time when it was illuminated at night.

At our last training and development session 2 weeks ago a couple of the puppy walkers had mentioned that they thought their pups were possibly not as bold when out and about as they ought to be compared with previous pups that they had puppy walked in the past.

With that in mind I arranged for our visit to Exeter city centre to take place when the pups were slightly younger than our normal visit to Exeter. This was to give me an early opportunity to assess the attitude and confidence of the pups when faced with all of the various sights and sounds of a busy city centre.

We met at Police Headquarters and everyone attended except Comet whose puppy walkers Dawn and Mark were working.

Before we went into Exeter we did some article searching and puppy tugging games. Here is Chaos searching and locating a small shotgun cartridge in long grass. 

Also pictured is Charlie showing a real determination to win a game of tug of war.

All of the pups were very focused and determined playing these games. When you consider how young they are I already have no doubt in my mind that they all have the working aptitude required in a Police dog.  We then made our way to Exeter city centre.

Each pup was required to be brought out individually from the underground car park in Princesshay Exeter so that I could assess their confidence and reaction to walking out into such a busy environment.  Pictured here is Copper and Mel emerging and I think Mel looks more apprehensive than Copper.

Chaos was a little cautious at first but soon became interested in the table tennis ball on offer

Cosmic came out all guns blazing and was soon up on his toes out to explore

Once everyone had emerged individually from the car park we all regrouped.

Each pup then had to walk individually with their puppy walkers around a small circuit. I was strategically placed to observe them all and to offer advice if required.
Having watched Chaos look a little cautious at the start and looking a little uncertain I asked Colin to sit quietly with him for 10 minutes just to get his confidence up before deciding if he should attempt the circuit.

This had the desired effect because he then recovered to such an extent that he wanted to go over to investigate everything he could. What you must not do if your puppy shows any element of stress or concern is to try and walk around a busy city centre with so many people and noises coming at the pup from every direction.

What you must do is sit and allow your pup space to sit and gain confidence at his/her pace. When you do decide to walk with the pup you must not have tension on the lead making him/her feel trapped or worse still insist on the puppy walking to heel. If you are going to insist on your puppy walking to heel then do it over a period of time in quiet areas before going into a busy town or city environment.

Here are some pictures of Chaos after he relaxed and the incredible improvement in such a short time tells me that he is going to be a very strong character. Here he is dragging me over to a very loud Karaoke performer. 

Then it was up to a bus completely unfazed by the air doors opening.

And finally checking out the balloon man.

Here is Callie striding ahead with puppy walker Annie with a real spring in her step.  

Here is Cagney with Jill and Terry who regularly walk her in Exeter and it shows. She is engrossed in investigating smells on the floor and I bet you it is the smell of her brothers and sisters who have gone before her. Using her nose in this way shows how relaxed she is.

Charlie did start to show a few signs of anxiety and so Paul is just allowing her a time out here before continuing further. She was fine after a short break.

Classic signs of Anxiety are many but some of the more common ones are Yawning, Licking of lips, Pulling hectically, Jumping up at the handler which is the poor puppy telling you that they are not comfortable and need to be removed from the situation.

Here is Copper working out whether this metal boar is going to play or not.

Here is Cathy  a Devon and Cornwall Police officer who is keen on joining the dog section and was out with us for the day. We are grateful to Cathy for taking our photos.

And finally the pups arriving back at the car park entrance tired and ready to go home.

Here are the pups individually.

Callie and Annie.  

Copper and Mel. 

Cagney and Jill. 

Chaos and Colin. 

Charlie and Paul.  

Cosmic with Linsay and Anthony.

I didn’t see any evidence of any of the pups exhibiting timidity. One or two were a little cautious to start with which is not surprising considering how busy it was but they quickly recovered and went from strength to strength.

All in all a very enjoyable and successful day.
See you all next time.


Monday 9 February 2015

Yogi and the B litter start their initial general purpose police dog course

We started our Initial Police dog course on Monday 26 of January 2015 and at the time of writing this update all the dog teams have completed 2 weeks of their training and all are doing really well.

I am instructing the course and I am also training Boris who is our spare dog. That means that Boris will step in if any of the other dogs are released from the programme for whatever reason. It is probably an insult to call Boris a spare dog because he is certainly not in the shadow of any of the other dogs. I will give an update on each dog after I have introduced the teams to you.

The above picture shows the teams on day 2 of the course. From left to right are PC Mike Green from Dorset Police dog section and Blade, PC Darryl Drew Exeter Police dog section and Beau, Boris and me. PC Rachael Prescott Bodmin dog section and Buddy, PC Steve White Newton Abbott dog section and Yogi.

Mike, Rachael and Stewart are all first time handlers.

Here are the dogs and a short resume of how they are doing.

Beau has been with Darryl since she was a puppy and so they have a very strong bond and they know each other very well. Her tracking work is outstanding because of the work done by Darryl. She was a little too well mannered at the start of the course but she is becoming more assertive day by day. She did have a problem with some shiny floors in buildings in the first few days and hopefully she will improve on this. Other than that a very good start.
Buddy is a very powerful masculine male and Rachael has really had to hang on for grim death on occasions to control him but she is a tough gritty person who is now starting to get to grips with his power. He is a very serious dog who is certainly not going to stand for any nonsense from anyone who challenges Rachael or him. That said he is a well balanced and social dog who loves to work.
Yogi has a huge appetite for work which added to his enthusiasm and excitability makes him a real handful for Stewart who is a novice handler. Again Stewart is a resilient chap who is learning how to channel, control and harness this energy. The potential of Yogi is huge and I have no doubt that as Stewart gains experience they will develop into a formidable team. Yogi is one of the hardest biting dogs I have worked in a long time.
Blade is another high drive dog who is excitable and can also be a little stubborn which makes him a bit of a challenge. He hasn’t got a bad bone in his body but if he thinks he can get away with anything he will. He has come a long way since his early days when he wasn’t the most energetic dog but that has changed. His handler Mike another first time handler absolutely loves him. Unfortunately Mike slightly pulled a hamstring this week running criminal and so the rest of us have been handling Blade until Mike fully recovers hopefully next week.
My beloved Boris is really blossoming on the course and I am really enjoying working him. He is very much the course clown who loves meeting anyone and everyone. But don’t be fooled because he has shown on the criminal work if the criminal gets tough then Boris is quite happy to  get tougher and I suspect he is going to be a real handful when he matures. He has come through a lot in his short time with changes of puppy walkers and was particularly affected by  the loss of his first puppy walker Ken who tragically died of cancer. On a happy note he appears to be back to his old self and is loving the work.
Bruno is 2 weeks into an Initial Police dog course with Gloucester Police. His new handler Lenny is a very experienced handler which is just as well as she describes him as a very strong willed powerful dog with a huge work drive. Hopefully we will get some updates and photo’s of the two of them throughout the course.

The Initial Police dog course is of 13 weeks duration and is particularly demanding for the handlers who have to learn basic dog handling skills, animal welfare, training theory, and health and safety just to mention some of the areas they cover.

It is also demanding for the dogs because they need to understand what their handlers want them to do and they have to learn to trust and bond with their handlers. The dogs love the actual exercises because it is probably the first time in their lives that they are actually able to follow their natural instincts to hunt, search, track, chase, and bite their quarry which in this case is man.

They learn to follow the ground trail left by a person who could be a criminal or missing person and we call this tracking.
Yogi hot on the trail tracking an offender

They learn to search for criminals or missing persons using the scent of the criminal or missing person which hangs in the air. 
The above shows Boris locating an offender in the woods using air scent.

They learn to negotiate obstacles such as walls or fences which they will need to negotiate if they are hunting criminals which we call agility.

The above Blade and Mike jumping an improvised obstacle together

They learn to chase and detain fleeing or violent criminals.

The above shows the dogs being introduced on day 1 to criminal work in the pouring rain.

The above shows Yogi learning to bite a violent offender and the look of pain on my face is not acting.

They also learn to deal with violent and disorderly crowds.

They learn to search for outstanding items of property by indicating the item without touching it to preserve DNA. We train this initially with an article the dog is not going to want to pick up like a large metal object. As soon as the dog sniffs it we throw a toy from behind to reward him. The dog then learns by freezing over the article he gets a reward.
The above shows Boris freezing over a metal fire hose and then gets a toy thrown in to reward him for not touching the item.

Blade patiently waiting for his turn to search.

They also learn obedience exercises such as heelwork, sit and down stay, distance control, emergency recalls from a person they are chasing and stopping a dog at distance.
Buddy staying in the down position until Rachael comes back to him.

They also are taught to ignore livestock or other dogs when they are on or off duty. They also need to know the difference between innocent people and innocent crowds and disorderly crowds and violent criminals. We spend a lot of time schooling the dogs in shopping centres and city centres to ensure they are always reliable with people and passive crowds.
The above shows Beau and Darryl on foot patrol on a housing estate learning how to walk on a lead in a relaxed but vigilant manner. 

So there you have it all the dog teams are doing well and enjoying their work. They also enjoy their weekend breaks when they are not allowed to undertake any training at all.

The weekends are for the dogs and handlers to enjoy a relaxing weekend to recharge their batteries for the week ahead.

I will endeavour to give you further updates as the course progresses.

See you soon Paul

Monday 2 February 2015

Bionic Brodie is fitted with the first of his two replacement hips

On Tuesday 20th January 2015 I met up with Brodie from our B litter at the St Davids Veterinary practise in Exeter for a consultation with Veterinary Orthapedic specialist Peter Attenborough with regard to Brodie’s extremely bad hip displacia. Hip Displacia is the abnormal development and growth of the hip joint and in Brodie’s case both of his hips are abnormal.

Having been x rayed by our own vet Clive at the Beaumont veterinary practise we already knew that Brodie had appalling hips and had probably been in pain from an early age. Clive had referred him to Peter Attenborough an orthapedic specialist at the St Davids Veterinary practise.

Peter Attenborough quickly established that they were amongst the worst hips he had seen and recommended that both hips needed to be replaced to avoid Brodie suffering prolonged pain and discomfort.

Pictured above is an Xray of what a normal set of hips should look like. These hips are Brodie’s litter brother Bruno which are excellent. The Ball joint is fitted nice and deeply into the joint socket.

Above is an X ray of Brodie's hips and as you can see the ball joint or the femoral head is not even in the socket.

Peter was very impressed with Brodie’s wonderful character and like all of us wanted to do whatever he could for this lovely dog whose uncomplaining nature and friendliness quickly endears him to whoever he meets.

Having been involved in 500 hip replacements Peter is very experienced and he completely shocked me when he said that not only would Brodie end up leading a normal life he stated that is was entirely possible that he could still one day be a working Police dog.

I wasn’t expecting that and while it would be a dream outcome and one that I don’t think has ever happened before my immediate objective was to try and ensure that Brodie became pain free and  able to lead a normal life.

Peter then made an incredibly kind and generous offer to waive a significant percentage of the costs of replacing his hips because he was excited by the project of restoring Brodie to the level of a normal healthy working dog.

The operation involves removing both the femoral head and the socket and replacing them with an artificial ball and socket joint. Peter was keen to get started and booked him in for Monday 26th January. He was then prepared for his operation on the Tuesday and he was to remain at the veterinary surgery until he was ready to go home on the Friday with his new hip.

He will be lead walked now for 8 weeks before returning to the St Davids centre for his second hip to be replaced.

I am certainly not a softie but I did have a lump in my throat seeing Brodie’s utter joy at being reunited with his puppy walkers.

Above shows Brodie glad to be back in his own car and settling down for the journey home.

Above shows Melissa settling in alongside Brodie to make sure he behaved himself on the way home.

I have been in touch with the family over the weekend and Brodie is now settled and happy back home.

I will keep you all updated and will report back on the next stage of his journey. Peter did tell me that Brodie’s condition was a rare and multi factored occurrence which might never happen again if his mother had further pups. Clearly having seen what has happened to Brodie we cannot take that chance and mother Mollie has now been spayed.

Fortunately as I reported in my last blog Mollies daughter Bebe (Brodie’s sister) has excellent hips and will now carry on her mothers mantle as a brood bitch to carry on the excellent working genes in these lines
In my next blog later this week I will introduce you to the new Initial Police dog course members and dogs.

Bye for now. Paul