Wednesday 29 July 2015

Our young brood bitches Bebe and Qwendi pass their working assessment

"Who is who, bet you can't tell!"
We believe that in any breeding programme the quality of the bitch should be as good if not better than the choice of Stud dog. For that reason we expect our brood bitches to have passed the same Police dog working assessments as our potential Police dogs. This means they must show exceptional ability in searching for persons and articles, tracking offenders and missing persons, boldness, tenacity, fight drive, and in addition to these qualities must have a balanced temperament, sociability, athleticism, and confidence in all situations.
"Hi I'm Bebe the thin one, hehe"
Bebe is 21 months old and is from our B litter. Our B litter has 4 operational Police dogs working in Devon and Cornwall, Dorset and Gloucestershire. Bebe was the pick of the litter and was earmarked as a future brood bitch from the time she climbed into my bucket of disinfectant when I was cleaning out the whelping box at the age of 4 weeks.

She would make an outstanding Police dog and hopefully she will give us some great future Police dogs. She lives with her carers Chris, Donna, Tom and Jake in Exeter.
Bebe and family
Sadly her mother Molly had to be retired from our brood programme after producing the B litter because one of her pups Brodie was born with very badly formed hips which required both hips to be replaced. The veterinary specialist Peter Attenborough who performed the hip replacements said it was a freak occurrence and unlikely to happen again but obviously we could not take the chance.

Fortunately Bebe has good hips and hopefully she will produce pups with the same outstanding work potential inherited from her mother Molly.
"Hi, I'm Qwendi, I have slightly bigger bones than Bebe which makes me stronger!"

As soon as it became apparent that we would not be able to continue with Molly as a brood bitch I decided to purchase a future brood bitch from my contacts in the German Police dog section in Westfalen.

I collected her in October last year aged 4 months. She has been a revelation and she is so advanced that I was able to take part in this year’s Devon County show with her at the tender age of 11 months.

"yep got him, OK what do you want me to do with him now!"
She will be having her hips and elbows x rayed next month and I have everything crossed for that. Looking at how sound she is in movement I am optimistic that she will be fine.
During their assessments both girls were absolutely outstanding in every department and in terms of their suitability to perform the role of a Police dog it would be very hard to find dogs with better potential anywhere.

We plan to breed one more litter from our very successful brood bitch Ruby in the Autumn this year. That will be her 3rd and final litter and we will then transfer ownership over to her carer Mark Fairchild who will look after her for the rest of her life.  She has already produced excellent dogs for us so far.

Her first litter of 7 pups the A litter were born in June 2013 and produced 6 operational Police dogs now working in Devon and Cornwall, Dorset and Avon and Somerset.
"One, two..., thank god they are all sleeping, I'm exhausted"
Ruby is pictured above keeping watch over the pups asleep in the garden when they were 6 weeks old.

Her 2nd litter the C litter are due to start their operational Police course in January 2016. Although we have released 3 females from the litter due to their lack of size the 4 remaining pups look very exciting prospects. Her C litter are pictured here feeding out in the garden when they were a month old and sleeping afterwards.

They are pictured below at training yesterday from left to right Copper, Cosmic, Chaos and Comet.
They are already at a very good standard and with 6 months of training still to go before they start their course in January I am very excited at their prospects.

I thought I would finish my blog this week with a few photo’s of little Billy who I am still puppy walking and I am enjoying having him. I am still somewhat lost without my old boy Spud as I have always had a male dog throughout my service. Billy is a real character and I only wish I was 20 years younger and able to work him as an operational Police dog. His eventual handler is going to be a very lucky handler.

Whilst it is only natural to enjoy his cuteness he is going to be a very strong assertive dog when he grows up. If you see him here in my friends conservatory he is saying to his very large 4 year old German Shepherd ‘Dodi’ this may be your house but this is my space and I will defend it.
"I'm lying here ok!"
I took him into Exeter on Saturday and he loved all the attention and was not fazed by anything whatsoever.

On Sunday washing my dog van with Billy and Qwendi out running around wasn’t my best decision as they ran off with my brush, cloth and played tug of war with the hose.
"It was him, I didn't tell him to do anything. Honest"
"Not doing anything..."

Yesterday Billy met his first cow which at first he was happy to view from afar
but then he became much braver and then seemed to have difficulty grasping the fact that the young bullock he met was much bigger than him and promptly barked at him and to his delight watched they bullock run away.
Just another early example of his boldness and assertiveness.

Well that is all from me see you next time.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Billy, assessment and Brodie all in one!

In this weeks blog
    1. Billy joins Memphis, Flynn and Rika for his first training session
    2. How Harry, Cosmic and Cagney did in their remedial assessments
    3. The future of Brodie after his hip replacements.

    Billy joins Memphis, Flynn and Rika for his first training session

    After a very pleasant day in the garden with 10 week old Billy
    "Come on then, I haven't got all day!"
    it was off to Police HQ Middlemoor for his first training session. He will be in the same group as  Memphis, Flynn and Rika who are 15 weeks old and are littermates.  These 4 pups will be developed for our September 2016 Initial Police dog course.  Each group consists of 6 pups which means we still have to purchase two more pups in the next couple of months.

    I was really interested to see how Billy would react to meeting the 3 older pups. We also had operational Police dog Jack there with his handler Phil Wilson to see their reaction to an older dog. As always none of the dogs were allowed to rough play and were kept under close control while they became acclimatised to each other in a sensible way.

    Billy reacted very positively and if anything showed he is going to be a very forward and assertive dog when he matures. Clearly if he did not receive regular canine contact, firm leadership and no doubt a degree of discipline Billy could very easily become a problem in the wrong hands.

    We were joined for the day by ITV who are making a documentary about the Devon and Cornwall Police force and wanted to see the puppy development scheme in action. They are pictured here filming me briefing the group about the objectives for the session.

    We started with some article searching and I gave a demonstration with my 12 month old brood bitch Qwendi of her searching for a small metal tube hidden in long grass. She is pictured here lying down next to the article to tell me she has found it. Our dogs are trained to search for any article with human scent on it and tell the handler they have found it by lying down or standing over it.
    "Found it, its over here, its not very interesting - I can't eat it!"
    We then started with the very early stages of article searching. We use an article which is pleasant to hold and play with like a glove or rolled up sock and throw it into the long grass and then release the dog to search and retrieve it. Even at 10 weeks of age Billy is seen here having found a leather glove in the grass and is bringing it back to me.
    "Got it, yep look at me 10 weeks old and I've found a ... glove!"
    It is possible to train a young pup to lie down next to an article using tidbits and we have done this. But we have found it is much better to get the pup to just love finding any article and retrieving it to the handler. We then teach them not to touch the article much later.

    Police pup Memphis is pictured here with his puppy walker Phil searching very nicely for a soft wallet.
    "I can do it, just give me time..."
    I always love watching Phil because he has such pride in his pup and you can see he desperately wants his boy to do well.

    Next it was on to the agility equipment. Obviously we do not do any jumping or anything that is likely to stress young joints but we do like to get them used to different experiences at this early stage as it pays dividends later in terms of confidence and problem solving. Billy has determination written all over his face here going up the ramp.
    "I can see the tidbits, I can smell the tidbits, I just can't reach the tidbits"
    I set up 3 ramps each progressively becoming slightly steeper and we finished with the introduction of the tunnel.
    "I can smell it, that tidbit is mine"
    Pictured here is Rika starting on Ramp 1, 

    Memphis and Flynn going up and down ramp 2

    "For a tidbit I would climb the highest mountain!"
    and Rika tackling the steepest ramp 3.

    "There it is, I didn't think I left it there though?"
    The above shows Billy having just run through the tunnel to get his toy.

    Next it was over to the tracking which is the most important exercise for our dogs as it accounts for the major part of the work done by an operational Police dog. Basically it is teaching the dog to follow the footsteps and the direction that an offender or vulnerable missing person has gone off in.

    I am pictured here carrying Billy across the field to do his tracking to a chorus of mickey taking from the others. That is because I am always telling the walkers not to carry their pups but to let them do things for themselves.
    "Why walk when you can be carried... its so hot..."
    But it was a hot day and the excitement was starting to get the better of Billy.

    The tracking is going really well and to explain it better I have included 2 short video’s of Billy and Rika doing their tracks. We use food drops to get the pup to make the association that footsteps have food in them. These are placed in every footstep in the early stages but are then gradually phased out with just the occasional food drop. ( Video 2 and 3 )

    Billy tracking

    Rika tracking

    Next we practised our sit, downs and recall’s over in the shade as the pups were starting to feel the heat.

    "Thank you, I wonder if these tidbits are low fat"
    Above is Rika and Memphis practising their positions. 

    "I needed a cuddle, I've been very busy... and look I'm sitting"
    Mel is here with Billy practising his cuddles.

    Video 4 shows Memphis recalling happily to Phil.

    Video 5 shows Rika recalling to Rob.

    Here are a couple photo’s of us relaxing between sessions

    and finally a nice group at the end of a lovely day.

    How Harry, Cosmic and Cagney did in their remedial assessments

    If you read my blog last week you will know that Harry, Cosmic and Cagney have not been developing as we would like and so this week I took the opportunity to assess them individually in more detail.

    Harry, pictured here with his puppy walker Graham recently at the Devon County show, was the first pup I assessed. Harry has had some issues on shiny floor surfaces and going up and down stairs. He assessed as a dog with exceptional working ability but still with issues on some floors. I have given Graham a 3 month action plan to help Harry to improve in this area and we will reassess him after that.

    Next I assessed Cagney. Pictured above at the County show with her puppy walkers Terry and Jill in the centre. She had not been showing the degree of determination needed in her work.  Unfortunately she didn’t show any signs of real improvement on my assessment and also wasn’t particularly bold when I looked at this area of her character.

    Reluctantly after consultation with Terry and Jill I have made the decision to release Cagney and just as I thought Terry and Jill have decided they want to keep her. We always give our puppy walkers 1st option to keep a pup if they are released from the program. I am happy knowing that Cagney will have a great home but very sad that Terry and Jill will no longer be puppy walkers as they have been with me from the start.

    I am very grateful for everything they have done for us and the many dogs they have puppy walked for us.

    Next in for assessment was Cosmic, pictured below on my assessment, who also had not been performing with the level of determination I wanted in his work and there had also been a question mark about his boldness.
    "I can be a Police dog, I'm just a little bit hot at the moment"
    I am happy to say that the more work we did the more enthusiastic he became and he really did show that the ingredients are there to be a Police dog. It was clear that he is not as bold as his 2 brothers but with maturity and further development  I believe he has the potential to become a  Police dog.

    Brodie decision time

    Brodie from our B litter was born with very badly defective hips which required both of his hips to be replaced.

    He is pictured here with the excellent orthopaedic surgeon Peter Attenborough and his staff who performed the work needed to give him the opportunity to lead a completely normal life.

    Peter the surgeon has advised us that not only will Brodie be able to lead a normal life he will also be fit enough to undertake the rigorous life of a Police dog.
    Brodie is pictured above at the Devon County show with his puppy walkers only 7 weeks after his second hip was replaced.

    I don’t doubt that Peter Attenborough is correct that Brodie could work. However after much soul searching I have decided that we should not risk Brodie’s welfare or future wellbeing by putting him through the rigours of a 13 week Police dog course and the physical stresses required of a Police dog after all he has gone through.

    I have discussed this with his puppy walkers. They obviously want to keep him having come through this journey together but they also want to carry on as puppy walkers which they will not be able to do if they keep Brodie. I have told them they do not need to rush to a decision but to discuss it and to let me know what they want to do. They know we have numerous people keen to give him a good home if they wish to continue puppy walking.
    Mike is pictured here with his best mate Brodie at the end of the county show.
    Well there you have it a very busy week. See you next time when I will update you on Brodie.

    Bye for now. Paul

    Monday 13 July 2015

    Billy arrives to join the September 2016 Police pup intake. Meanwhile Police pup Harry and some of the C litter struggle to impress.

    Last Tuesday I traveled up to our breeder John Smith in Leicestershire to collect Billy aged 9 weeks to join our Police puppy programme for our September 2016 intake.
    "I'm Billy, not doing anything wrong, just lying here"

    We already have 3 other pups Flynn, Memphis and Rika for that course who you will have seen in my last blog.

    Poor Billy has not had the best of starts as he was one of 2 pups in his litter (both boys) but sadly his brother died of an infection when only 2 weeks old. This meant that Billy was then raised by his mother as the only pup and was deprived of interaction with pups of his own age.

    We know from experience this can cause issues with character development. As luck would have it John also had a second litter of pups 1 week younger than Billy. John placed Billy with this litter of 7 pups when he was 5 weeks old. He was accepted by the rest of this litter and has been with them for the last 4 weeks.

    From my assessment of Billy it was obvious he was a very outgoing and confident pup with a strong affinity with people.  This is not surprising because once he lost his brother, Billy got lots of extra attention and cuddles from John’s wife Chrissie and their assistant Emma.

    As soon as I started the journey back to my house it was obvious that Billy despite being alongside me in the van was very stressed. He cried all the way back which is not something I normally experience with John’s pups. He then had a very restless and stressful noisy night.

    Luckily my 12 month old bitch Qwendi sensed that all was not well and instinctively seemed to mother Billy and he was very definitely reassured by her presence. Here are a few photo’s of the two of them.
    "It's ok, just look at the camera"
    "That's right stare right at the camera, give'em cute"
    "Enough already..., yer Billy give'iem with the tongue"

    You can see from video 1 what a lovely tolerant bitch Qwendi is showing no aggression when Billy tries to steal her toy.

    Normally when I collect a single pup I place them straight with their new puppy walkers before they get used to me  but in this case I decided to keep Billy just to keep an eye on him and give him the best possible start.

    In the short time I have had him he has settled well and seems confident with everything he has encountered. He loves meeting people but he is quite aggressively vocal on seeing other dogs. It will be interesting to see how he reacts when he meets the other pups from his intake next Sunday at his first puppy development class.

    Here are a few more photo’s of his time with me so far. I let him settle for a few days then it was off to meet the vet.
    "Like this loads of attention"
    "Whaaat?... Where's this vet person then?"
    "Oh there you are... gently please I've had a hard morning"
    I introduced him to the lawnmower and the hoover by using Qwendi who is not bothered by either.  A scattering of titbits near both appliances took his mind off the noise as he competed with Qwendi for the titbits.
    "Lawn mower yer yer yer... got it, yummy"
    "Hoover yep... ohh more food... mine"
    It is my intention to take a close look at Billy and his relationship on meeting other dogs before I place him with his new puppy walking family next week after his first training session.
    "Gosh this is hard work... I've been standing still for ages... "

    With his thick long coat grooming is going to be a regular feature for Billy.
    He is very quick across the ground when he hears his food bowl rattle.
    "Is it lunch time yet?..."
    He enjoyed his visit to Exeter city centre watching the world go by.
    "I could get used to this... food"
    He enjoyed his ride in the wheelbarrow
    "Can I have a Cheeseburger and chips please..."
    Watch out for future blogs, labelled Billy, to see how he gets on.

    Police pup Harry and C litter pups, Cagney and Cosmic struggle on their training day

    The remainder of the C litter and Police pup Harry are pictured here on our development training day last week.
    Those of you who follow the blog will know that we recently released Callie and Copper ( C litter) from the Police puppy program  due to their lack of size. I have had doubts about several other pups in the C litter which was why I purchased Police pup Harry from breeder Tony Cronin in Bridgend at the age of nearly 5 months to make sure we had enough pups for our January 2016 Initial Police dog course.

    Chaos ( pictured 1st left) and Comet ( pictured 4th left) have been the stand out dogs in the C litter from the start and look to be natural Police dogs in the making. Cosmic (2nd left ) has been a very enthusiastic happy pup but there have been issues around his general boldness. The same can be said for Charlie ( 3rd left) but she has been improving steadily in relation to her confidence. Cagney (5th from left) has lacked determination in her work but has been confident and well balanced. Harry far right has a really strong work ethic but is a clingy pup who struggles to deal with some shiny floors and stairs.

    The first part of the training session assessed the determination of the pups to search in an overgrown area for hidden articles.
    "That's right just watch me struggle, next time please keep your camera in your pocket..."

    Charlie is pictured here emerging with a camera she has located. They were also assessed on their tenacity in playing tug on a large bite bar.
    "Mine I think you'll find..."
    Chaos is pictured here showing real determination to win the bite bar.

    The second part of the session was set up specifically to look at how the pups coped with lots of shiny floor surfaces, stairs and to see how they coped with lots of loud and sometimes unusual noises. Basically we were looking at their boldness. As expected Chaos and Comet were extremely determined and tenacious in the first session and were not fazed by any of the stimuli in the second session and actually became very excited by all of the noise and bedlam.
    "I can see him... now don't slow me down"
    "Let me go... give me my toy... meanie"
    Comet is pictured here chasing me into the building and then barking confidently at me for his reward.
    "Its a metal lid, And..."

    Comet not in the slightest bit fazed with noisy hot plate lids being thrown around on the concrete floor.

    Charlie performed well on the first session and generally coped well on the second session but she was not particularly bold around the industrial hoover.
    "Swinging ropes oow, And... "

    Looking relaxed on the shiny floors and not fazed with the very loud  noise of the overhead runners  above the ropes.

    Cagney lacked commitment on the 1st session and was a little bit stressed by the second part of the assessment. Cosmic wasn’t particularly determined on the first session and although not particularly stressed by part 2 he clearly doesn’t relish the rough and tumble and we may just have to accept he is basically too nice!

    I would like to pay a special mention to Lindsay pictured here on the right with Cosmic on our last training day. ( Dawn and Comet are on the left)
    "COWS? ..."
    Lindsay has had a long battle with Crohn’s  disease and despite having only recently undergone major surgery she came up to Exeter with her dad Trevor for our training session.

    Trevor handled Cosmic for Lindsay and as you can see here he couldn’t be trying any harder to get Cosmic to perform well on the tugging game. He looks as though he is about to bite the canvas roll himself to show Cosmic how to do it.
    "OK, ok but it tastes nasty... yukky..."
    Finally Harry who was fairly clingy to Graham his puppy walker on the searching exercise but was determined on the game involving the bite bar. In part 2 he was not particularly happy on some of the floor surfaces and the stairs.
    "Yep, I'm the dog, I can do this, this jaw is a biting JAW..."
    Biting is not a problem for Harry.

    I will be having Harry, Cagney and Cosmic out with me individually over the next 2 weeks to assess whether further development is likely to result in any significant improvement and ultimately whether they remain in the program. Should they not improve sufficiently the puppy walkers have expressed a desire to keep their pups should they be released.

    Whether the pups go on to make Police dogs or not I am still very proud of the fact that they all have wonderful temperaments and would fit into any type of home and are dogs anyone would be proud of.

    I will keep you all posted as to how they all get on. 

    See you next time. Paul