Tuesday 27 September 2016

The 2016 September general purpose initial police dog course gets underway and after 2 weeks all the teams are doing well

From left to right are Course Instructor Graham with Reggie, Terri with Teague (formerly Memphis ) Vikki with Riggs, Luke with Jacque and Steve with Dexter.

All 5 teams are progressing well after completing 2 weeks of the 13 week long course. The course is a very intensive training course both mentally and physically.

Let me introduce the teams to you.

Team 1 Graham Attwood and Reggie


Reggie is one of 10 pups Born in July 2015. They are cross bred German shepherds and Belgian shepherds ( Malinois)  bred by our breeder Drew in Gloucestershire. We purchased 4 male pups from the litter Reggie, Riggs, Dexter and Cato.

Here is Drew with his litter of pups on the day I went to see them

Reggie has been puppy walked by Angie and Graham Collins in Exmouth.

Here is Reggie and Angie on our first training day when he was only 11 weeks old

He had to undergo major surgery on his shoulder earlier this year to correct an abnormality and his future as a working dog looked bleak. Happily he has come through this with flying colours. He is the spared dog on the course and now lives with the course Instructor Graham who is handling him on the course.

We run a spare dog just in case any of the course dogs are unsuccessful in completing the course. If they  all successfully complete the course then the spare dog will go to the next handler requiring a dog and that handler does not then need to do a full 13 week course.

Team 2 Terri Davies and Teague  

In June 2015 we acquired Teague (formerly Memphis) from GSD breeder Tony Cronin of Rafpol GSD’S in Bridgend along with his sister Rika and brother Flynn when they were 8 weeks old.

Teague (Memphis) was puppy walked by Phil and Mel Rooks in Plymouth and all 3 pups are pictured here on one of our early training days with Rika & puppy walker Rob on the left, Flynn with puppy walker Andy in the centre and Phil with Teague far right.

As reported in my last blog Rika graduated as a Police dog in the summer this year after an individual course and is now operational in Camborne with handler Tim Goodwin and Flynn was released due to a lack of aggression and determination. Flynn is doing well in his new home in Wiltshire.

Teague is handler Terri’s second dog after her first dog Marley recently retired. Marley and Terri had a very successful career together. Marley will now live out the rest of his days with Terri and Teague at home. Marley is also the father of the 6 operational Police dogs from our A litter.

Team 3 Vikki Ritchie and Riggs

Riggs is also one of our 4 GSD/Malinois crosses and was puppy walked by Chris and Donna Highton in Exeter.

Sadly as reported in previous blogs Donna became very ill and Chris was unable to continue puppy walking Riggs. Steve Pearce kindly took over puppy walking Riggs and as always did an excellent job.
Riggs will be Vikki’s second Police dog. Her first dog Jasper had to retire prematurely this year aged 4. If successful the team will be operating from Ashburton.

Team 4 Luke Barnard and Jacque

We acquired Jacque when he was 5 months old from Diana Oldfield in Truro. We didn’t actually need any additional puppies at that time but we were impressed with our initial assessment of him and his story meant that we had to give him a chance.

Diana’s late husband Peter a GSD enthusiast had purchased Jacque as a 7 week old puppy.

Peter a former Devon and Cornwall Police officer named his puppy after his great friend and former legendary Police dog handler Jack Rule.

Diana and Peter had known Jack from their time when Peter was a Police officer in Paignton many years previously.
When Peter died suddenly Diana knew she couldn’t cope with a boisterous young pup like Jacque because she also had to look after her elderly mother.

She knew that Peter would have loved Jacque to be a Police dog and so she offered him to our force.

Jacque was placed with puppy walker Heather Iles.

At the time Heather was doing a part time job which fitted in well with looking after Jacque and her children.

She then was offered a full time job offer she couldn’t turn down and so Jacque then went to stay with our course Instructor Graham until a few weeks before the start of the course.

Jacque was then allocated to Luke who is a first time handler. The two of them are getting on really well together.

Team 5 Steve Waters and Dexter

Dexter is the 3rd member of our 4 GSD/Malinois crosses on the course. He was Puppy walked by Eamon and Karen Rogers in Barnstaple.

Dexter is probably the liveliest of the 4 brothers and no doubt Eamon’s previous experience as a Police dog handler before his retirement stood him in good stead.

Dexter will be handler Steve’s second General purpose Police dog having previously worked Police dog Lady who has just retired from operational service. Should the team be successful they will be operating from Bodmin.

For those of you wondering about the 4th brother Cato he will be on our January 2017 course.


What does the course entail

The modern Police dog training course bears very little resemblance to the courses of yesteryear. The objectives are still the same ie teaching the dogs to track and search for offenders and missing persons, to deal with fleeing or aggressive criminals, aggressive crowds, negotiating obstacles, locating and indicating outstanding property, and teaching control exercises such as walking to heel, the sit and down stay, the send away, distance control, recall to handler.
Terri getting nice focus
The dogs are rewarded for desired behaviour with toy and food rewards and exercises tend to be broken down into smaller compartmentalised actions which are later joined together to form the complete exercise.
Vikki & Riggs in the early stage of jumping
The handlers have to exhibit a patient approach waiting for the desired behaviour before marking it with a toy or food reward.
The old style of showing the dog who is boss has been replaced with allowing the dog to think and to work out what is required for him/herself. The dogs no longer have to worry about constant corrections from the handler and by removing such stress the dog is able to think clearly and enjoy the learning process.
Steve & Dexter working on their down
On the more proactive drive exercises the dog learns that to get what he/she wants ie chase and bite or track or hunt he/she must listen to their handlers instructions to be allowed to continue with the exercise.
Instructor Graham looking like he is about to pull his hamstring
This takes a more patient approach but it removes conflict between dog and handler and more importantly builds attentiveness and that all important bond so necessary for the team to function efficiently and  successfully.
Luke & Jacque enjoying biting the trainer
Having said all of that these dogs are going to be taught that in certain circumstances it is okay to bite a human being. So it is important that the handler is assertive and firm when the occasion demands it and most important of all is consistent.

There is no place for allowing a dog to ignore an instruction because one day that instruction might just save the dogs life.
Reggie showing the drive & determination that needs to be controlled
Without doubt our most important exercise is tracking. We are regularly called to try and determine what direction an offender or missing person has gone off in. This required the dog to follow their trail or track.

I have included all 5 dogs in the beginning stages of following a track to locate their ball hidden on the end of the track. These tracks are 3 days into the course and although very short will develop into half mile tracks across multiple surfaces ( including tarmac ) over obstacles and recovering 4 hidden articles on route and a hidden offender at the end of the track who on occasions will become violent.

Video 1 Reggie.

Video 2 Teague.

Video 3 Riggs.

Video 4 Jacque.

Video 5 Dexter.

I will do a blog update in 6 weeks time to show you the progress that they all make.

Daisy from our D litter has to change puppy walker

Unfortunately Natasha was finding it difficult juggling a full time job and asking her parents to help out with looking after Daisy and reluctantly had to give her up which was a pity as they were doing really well. Daisy is pictured here on the right with Natasha on our last training day.

Daisy came back to me for a few days and is pictured here having a chat with her mother Sasha in our garden.
Our Knight in shining armour Eamon who was looking forward to extra golf now that Dexter had gone agreed to curtail his golf at the insistence of his wife and daughters to take Daisy on.
I thought I would share this picture of Dizzy, Devon and Duke from the D litter on our last training day.

We are all off to the farm on our next training day.

Remember Brodie our double hip replacement dog from our B litter


I am happy to say he is still thriving in his forever home with retired vet Joanna Turner and her flat coats.


Rudi arrives from Holland

Last week I took some leave to go over to Holland to collect my new pup Rudi from the famous Tiekerhook German shepherds. I haven’t decided whether he will eventually become a Police dog or my own dog yet.
Rudi aged 7 weeks
He has been raised in a garage with little or no socialisation and was a bit shell shocked on arriving at my house to say the least. I will keep you updated as to how he gets on.
Rudi aged 16 weeks at my house.
 Well that brings you all up to date. See you all next time.

Friday 9 September 2016

Meet the dogs selected for the 3 month initial police dog course starting on Monday the 12th September and an update on how all the rest of the dogs in the puppy program are getting on

Well here we are again just about to start another General purpose Initial Police dog course. Pictured below are all of the dogs we acquired in 2015 to prepare for this course. As a result of all the hard work from our puppy walkers and our fortnightly development sessions we are now in a position to select the dogs for the course.

From left to right are Jacque, Lenny, Memphis, Rika, Flynn and Billy on one of our many training days.
From left to right are Cato, Riggs, Dexter and Reggie.

The dogs in Picture 1 are all German shepherds and the dogs in picture 2 are German shepherd/Belgian shepherd ( Malinois ) cross bred dogs.

I acquired the German shepherd/Malinois cross bred dogs as an experiment to see if mixing the 2 breeds gave us the qualities we were looking for and the early indications would suggest that they have.

Rika has already been fast tracked in her training having successfully completing an individual Initial Police dog course during the summer with her new handler Tim Goodwin and is now stationed in Camborne.
The following dogs will be starting the Initial Police dog course on Monday 12th Sept.
Jacque pictured here with new handler Luke Barnard.
Memphis with Plymouth handler Terri Davies whose current dog Marley is retiring.
Dexter with Bodmin handler Steve Waters whose dog Lady is retiring.

Riggs with Newton Abbott handler Vikki Ritchie whose dog Jasper has retired.
Reggie pictured here with the course Instructor Graham Attwood. Reggie will be trained by Graham and will be the spare dog for the course. He will be living with Graham and his family.

The remaining September 2016 dogs

Billy pictured here with puppy walker Nigel is still very immature and probably not quite ready to start the September 2016 Initial Police dog course. I know from his time spent with me in his early months that he has it in him to make a Police dog and so he will probably now go onto the 2017 January course.

I am grateful to dog section supervisor PS Ali Cruwys who has been taking Billy out for additional development sessions which has really brought him on.

Cato pictured above with his puppy walker Susannah. Cato is ready for the September course but Exeter handler Steve Cruwys whose dog Logan retires in October has made a specific request to work Cato having already spent time with him. He will be allocated to Steve for the January 2017 course.

Flynn pictured above with his puppy walking family. Sadly I have had to release Flynn from the program. This was because of a lack of suspicion and natural aggression.
Flynn is one of the nicest dogs you could wish to meet and he has gone to a lovely home with Lizzie and Jeremy in Wiltshire where he has settled in very well.

The final dog in the group is Lenny who at this point in time is my own dog. He is the father of our D litter pups. I have had him since I collected him from Germany aged 4 months and he is an exceptional dog.

I will be finishing his training during the Initial course and he will be available for allocation should a sudden unforeseen emergency arise. I would love to keep him but with his natural ability he was born to work and in my view is destined for great things.

I will be completing an ongoing blog on how the September 2016 Initial course progresses.

The Pups Acquired For The 2017 January Initial Course Dogs

Above from left to right are Rocky, Roz, Ronnie and Roxy.

Above from left to right are Bernie, Bob and Bevan.

To say we have been bedevilled with bad luck for this course is an understatement. Ronnie is the sole remaining dog from these 4 pups that I imported from Germany bred by my friend Alfons Schumeister last year.

We had to release Rocky, Roz and Roxy because their hips were not suitable for Police work.

Our breeder Alfons a GSD breeder for 30 years was devastated having never had hip problems before. He has promised to replace all 3 pups and as I write this article his brood bitch Polly has just had a litter of 14 pups.

Obviously it is good that he has offered to replace them but it will be too late to help with the shortfall for their allocated course and it doesn’t make up for the disappointment for our walkers.

Our policy when a pup has to be released is to always offer the puppy walker 1st option to keep their pup at no cost. On this occasion Susanne elected to keep Roxy
Susanne and Roxy

and Mike elected to keep Roz.

Lyn didn’t elect to keep Rocky as she wishes to continue to puppy walk and so Rocky went to Kirsty Millar a serving Devon and Cornwall Police officer and they are getting on very well together.
Bevan, Bob and Bernie were acquired from Paul Jones a previous breeder of ours who has just moved back to Cornwall having been in Germany for 7 years.

Unfortunately we have also had to release Bob from the program because he has a phobia going onto different types of floor surfaces.

Paul has elected to keep Bob pictured here with his family at the Devon county show.
Bernie has the same issue as his brother but not to the same degree as Bob. We will be monitoring Bernie very closely and hopefully this will improve. It is without doubt a genetic issue and it is such a pity because all 3 brothers are exceptional in all other aspects.

After all these years of looking after the puppy program it doesn’t get any easier releasing a pup from the program. I don’t think many Police dog handlers realise just how much work our puppy walkers have to put in to raising their dogs.

Since we have been doing the fortnightly development sessions the puppy walkers meet regularly and are like a family. This is without doubt the most we have had to release in such a short period of time and it has hit me hard.

It has certainly caused me to question on more than one occasion whether I could carry on having to see the upset it causes my puppy walkers when a pup doesn’t make it.

But it is important to carry on because the scheme has served the force well now for over 25 years and seeing the pups develop and succeed makes it all worthwhile.

Last week I visited all of our D litter pups at their homes and seeing how well they are doing really did give me a nice boost. Here are some pictures of all the pups.
"Hi, I'm Donna, have you come to play?"

"Are you sure?"

"Hi I'm Dizzy, which I am clearly so not"

"Hi me again, what do you want to watch?"

"Hi I'm Daisy and I think this thing just ate my treat!
"It's alright they gave me another one"
"Have you got a treat for me too?"
"Hi I'm Danno and yer he's not bad to walk"

"Hi just me in this picture he gets a bit camera shy you know!"

"Hi I'm Devon and this is my friend Lauren we have been really good, honest"

"Do you think it's treat time now?"

Hi,  I'm Duke, just waiting for Bevan

This is Bevan, he's only little bit older than me

Me an Bevan are best friends and we are never naughty

With all the bad press dogs seem to get lately the pictures of Lauren and Devon sum up for me the special bond that exists between dogs and children.

I particularly loved the ones of Bevan and Duke which just oozes naughty little boys always looking for mischief.

I would like to conclude with a special thanks to Angie and Graham for all their hard work nursing a very energetic Reggie through his major shoulder operation with all of the chaotic other things going on in their lives. Well done.

I would also like to give special thanks to Chris Highton who puppy walked Riggs until his wife Donna became too ill for them continue.

Sadly those who follow my blog will know that Donna passed away but Chris has continued to help out looking after pups at weekends to give other walkers a short break.

Chris is pictured here with Riggs on one of our early training days and he is accompanied by his son Jake helping with a young Cato.

Well I think that brings everyone up to date.

From Lenny, Sasha and me bye for now.