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

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