Thursday 12 December 2019

PD Tank ( Errol) and PD Nico successfully graduate as operational police dogs but TPD Rana and TPD Ernie have to wait a little bit longer

Pictured above are PC Elizabeth Porcher with PD Tank (Previously Errol) course Instructor Steve Dutton and PS Andy Coleman with PD Nico having just qualified as Operational Police dogs.

After 13 gruelling weeks on their General purpose Police dog course they were independently assessed yesterday by City of London Police dog Instructor John Nichols and granted their home office license to become General purpose Police dogs.

Readers of the blog will know the course started with 4 dogs and a different Instructor Graham Attwood. Here are the dog teams at the start of the course with the Chief Constable making an impromptu appearance.

From left to right were TPD Ernie with the course Instructor Graham Attwood, TPD Rana with handler Jenna Bushby Dorset Police, TPD Nico with handler Andy Coleman D&C and TPD Tank ( Previously Errol) with handler Elizabeth Porcher Dorset Police.  

All 3 handlers on the course were novice first time handlers. TPD Ernie was the only dog without a handler and this was because it was considered that his extremely strong drives, fierce determination and speed meant that TPD Ernie needed an experienced dog handler.

Here he is showing that determination in week 1 whilst tracking with Graham.
As we didn’t have an experienced dog handler needing a dog we decided to train him anyway just in case a handler became available.

It was decided that course Instructor Graham Attwood would handle and train him for the rest of the course. TPD Ernie was living with Graham and his family during the course.
The course progressed well with all of the dogs performing well in all exercises and disciplines.

Here is Jenna with TPD Rana showing natural tracking ability in the early weeks.

TPD Rana was meant to be on our January 2020 course but because we lost several dogs from our Sept 2019 course with hip dysplasia we had to fast track her onto this course aged only 10 months.

Here is course Instructor Graham with TPD Ernie tracking training after 5 weeks on the course and  showing just why we rate TPD Ernie so highly

Over the 13 weeks the dogs have to learn to track and search for vulnerable missing persons and outstanding criminals, deal with violent and disorderly crowds, defend their handlers from attack, chase and detain fleeing criminals, search for lost or discarded stolen property, negotiate a wide variety of different obstacles and all of this is built on a foundation of control exercises.

Here is PD Tank ( Errol) emphasizing just what  outstanding tracking dogs we produce in our force. We start this exercise with our 3 month old pups because it is the most important exercise our Police dogs have to do.

I have emphasized the tracking because in the vast rural area our handlers have to work in and the distances they have to cover very often by the time they get to the scene the track is fading and only the best tracking dogs can flourish.

Very often our handlers are alone tracking violent criminals for miles in the dark having to negotiate obstacles on the way. Here is Andy tracking across country negotiating a fence with his 42 kg dog PD Nico before locating the offender.

Unfortunately around week 6 of the course disaster struck when Instructor Graham Attwood injured his back just as he was about to lift TPD Ernie over a fence whilst tracking.

This injury effectively put Graham out for the rest of the course and so Instructor Steve Dutton had to take over and carry on the good work already done by Graham.

This meant that Graham couldn’t look after TPD Ernie. Ernie then came to live with me at weekends and continued training with the course members during each week.

As always my dog Ella took him under her wing and it was perfect relaxation for him in between training on the course.

Here he is doing a track with Vikky Ritchie who helped out on the course while her own dog PD Riggs recovered from a leg injury.
Around week 9 of the course TPD Rana developed some gastrointestinal issues which prevented her completing the rest of the course. She has fully recovered but will now need to complete a further 4 weeks training in the new year to be ready for licensing.
It is a real shame that she couldn’t finish on this course and obtain her license because she was doing so well. But it is great news that she has fully recovered and I think she will be a great dog for Jenna.

Keeping TPD Ernie training on the course proved to have been a very wise decision because last week tragedy struck when PD Buddy from our B litter had to be put to sleep after battling an awful disease called Furunculosis which had taken a turn for the worst.

Rachael took Buddy to see his old puppy walkers for the last time before doing what we all dread in such circumstances ie saying goodbye and watching our best friend quietly going to sleep in our arms.

Here is Buddy on his passing out parade over 4 years ago with his handler Rachael and his puppy walkers Lyndsay and Anthony.

PD Buddy was an outstanding Police dog who Rachael will never forget and she will always have the fantastic memories of their time together.

Rachael has now been allocated TPD Ernie and today took TPD Ernie from me to get to know and bond with him before joining TPD Rana and Jenna on a 4 week licensing course at the beginning of January.
In the B litter as a tiny pup PD Buddy stood out as he always fixed you with his strong confident stare and I knew he would be a future Police dog. TPD Ernie in the E litter was exactly the same and I have no doubt he will be a great dog for Rachael.

Steve will continue with their Instruction and I look forward to seeing them graduate and follow in the footsteps of PD Tank ( Errol ) and PD Nico.

Last week I spent the day watching Instructor Steve putting the final touches to preparing PD Tank and PD Nico for their assessments with their handlers. Here are Andy and PD Nico getting some words of wisdom from Steve.

Here is Elizabeth and PD Tank practising for their tracking assessment. On the tracking assessment they have to follow the trail of a criminal who has left the scene of a crime 45 minutes prior to the arrival of the dog team.

The track is over half a mile in distance and they have to locate 4 articles hidden or dropped by the criminal on route and they then have to locate the criminal and arrest him/her. (

Here is PD Nico searching for hidden items of property and on locating he must indicate by freezing and not touching the item to preserve any DNA.

Here is PD Nico carrying out the stand-off exercise. This is where the handler sends his/her dog to detain a fleeing criminal and the criminal then decides to stop and surrender giving himself up. The dog should not bite but remain with the criminal until his/her handler arrives.

It is a very difficult exercise to teach because the dog has to make a split second decision not to bite.

Nico performed the exercise perfectly and the criminal has no doubt running again would be a bad move.

Here is Andy practising the down stay and some control exercises with PD Nico. This is the foundation for all exercises.

Here is PD Tank practising his down stay and some agility exercises.

So all the hard work over 13 weeks and the final preparations paid off with the successful teams achieving their license to leave as operational Police dogs and so the final day is always reserved for the passing out parade.

We have had a passing out parade for over 30 years which is always a nice way to finish the course. It gives the handlers a chance to share the day with their family and it also gives us an opportunity to say a big thank you to all of our puppy walkers.

The weather was appalling but nothing was going to put the dampeners on our puppy walkers being reunited with their dogs.

Here is PD Nico reunited with Rob and Karen.

Here is PD Tank ( Errol) being reunited with Sue and Andy.

It is always interesting how it always takes a minute for the dog to realise it is actually their puppy walkers.

The course then put on a demonstration for their families, friends and puppy walkers. The foul  weather and boggy ground made it unsuitable for formal heelwork and the usual march on parade.

Elizabeth and PD Tank ( Errol ) gave a demonstration of tracking down and dealing with a very violent festive Elf.

Andy and PD Nico gave a demonstration of a vehicle pursuit where the driver a Belinda Carlisle lookalike abandoned the vehicle and tried to escape.

We all then went inside to dry off and to warm up with a hot drink before taking photographs of the course, family and puppy walkers with their dogs.

Here are the course with ACC Paul Davies who is a great supporter of the section and wanted to present the handlers with their certificates and a thank you photo to the puppy walkers.

From left to right are Andy with PD Nico, ACC Paul Davies, course Instructor Steve Dutton  and Elizabeth Porcher with PD Tank

Andy with PD Nico and his puppy walkers Rob and Karen.

Andy with PD Nico and Andy’s family.

Andy with PD Nico and his breeder Bernard Horton of Kazzardsway German shepherds who traveled down from Manchester to see them.

Andy and PD Nico ready to hit the streets.

Elizabeth or Porch as she is known with PD Tank ( Errol) with his puppy walkers Andy and Sue.

Porch with PD Tank and Porch’s family.

Porch with PD Tank ready to hit the streets of Dorset.

After the photos we all retired to the presentation room where ACC Paul Davies presented the handlers with their licensing certificates and the puppy walkers with a photo of their dog and a certificate of recognition for all of their hard work.

Then it was time to retire to the buffet ably presented by our kennel technician and cordon bleu chef for the day John.

Despite the weather we all had a great day. I would like to wish Porch and Andy all the best as they start their new career as operational dog handlers with PD Tank and PD Nico.

From Ella and I see you next time.

Friday 29 November 2019

The F litter enjoy their day out in Exeter and our January 2020 initial police course dogs meet their future dog handlers

The F litter enjoy their day out in Exeter City Centre and they are all progressing well in their training

Since our last blog all of the F litter pups have undergone environmental training in Exeter city centre. Pictured above are TPD Flo, TPD Flint and TPD Fendi. 

With regard to their training they are all doing really well and had a very successful training session last Sunday. 

Over a 2 week period I took all of the pups either individually or in pairs into Exeter city centre to see how their socialisation was going and to give guidance on how to introduce the pups to the hustle and bustle of a busy city centre.

Before setting off into Exeter each day from HQ we took the pups into the clothing stores to see what they made of the steep stairs and the open metal floors.

Here is TPD Fendi making it all look very easy

I was surprised at just how unconcerned all the pups were walking over the see through metallic grid floor. You can see from this video of TPD Franky that it is an unusual floor for a dog to walk over.

Before going into Exeter we also did a short tracking session with each pup. I like to do a tracking session on all of our training days because it is such an important exercise for an operational Police dog.

Here is TPD Floyd already showing that he fully understands how to follow a trail left by a person.

After the tracking we then made our way into Exeter city centre.

Here are Jeanette and TPD Freya sitting quietly watching the world go by and then confidently tackling the shiny marble stairs and shiny floors in the shopping precinct.

Here are Simon and TPD Floyd going down the same stairs which are not easy for a young dog to negotiate. In the past we have had several dogs very unhappy with these stairs.
Whilst these sessions are primarily about development they also give me an insight into their individual characters, their general confidence and how resilient they are.
Their puppy tests at 7 weeks had already identified that they had all started out as confident pups and so any instances of caution or uncertainty during the visit would indicate not enough socialisation had taken place and needed addressing.

TPD Freddy and TPD Franky pictured here with Rod and Rich didn’t find the day at all stressful.

The pups are not rushed and we spend several hours giving them time to take it all in at their own pace.
Here are Colin and TPD Finni taking in the sights and sounds.

Here is TPD Floyd in the car park very sensibly and confidently weighing up the automatic doors opening and a shopping trolley coming his way.

Here are Simon and TPD Floyd paying their respects to the statue of one of Exeter’s illustrious sons

Richard Hooker 1554 -1600 writer and Theologian.

Richard Hooker has witnessed many of our pups being photographed on his famous steps. Here is Lyn with TPD Flo and me with TPD Fozzy.
They were greeted enthusiastically by the workers putting up the Xmas market.

Talking about paying our respects TPD Freddy and TPD Franky met these very fine gentlemen who made a fuss of all of the pups during our visits.
All the pups without exception strolled around Exeter city centre as if they had been there countless times. Here are Sarah (C) with TPD Flint and Sarah (B) with TPD Fendi making their way down the high street.

Here they are meeting some new friends.

It certainly wasn’t cheap buying all of my puppy walkers a Latte each but it was worth every penny just to see how well they all did.
Meanwhile the chill out twins TPD Freddy and TPD Franky weren’t in a hurry to do very much.

Then Rod said something about popping into Debenhams to get a new cravat.
I have to say I think the pups were an excellent advertisement for our puppy program and I was very proud of them all.
I was particularly pleased with TPD Finni who had not been so confident having recently changed puppy walkers but she has really come on in leaps and bounds with Colin and Mitzi.

I will leave the last word to the terrible twins TPD Freddy and TPD Franky who ended up completely tyred out.

The F litter training on Sunday 24 Nov

From left to right at the morning session were TPD Fozzy, TPD Freya, TPD Finni and TPD Freddy. 
From left to right in the afternoon session were TPD Flo, TPD Franky, TPD Freya, TPD Flint and TPD Floyd.

The f litter have just turned 5 months old and look a lot different than they did when they were 5 weeks old.
Generally the F litter all seem to have lovely temperaments. There are a couple of the litter who are reactive to seeing other dogs and a number of the puppy walkers are having issues with their pups pulling on the lead. 
Over the coming weeks and months I will be conducting individual training sessions to address these issues. The litter have inherited very strong working drives from their parents and so pulling on lead does unfortunately come with the territory.

We started our training sessions with tracking work as we always do. Now that the pups are much bigger I introduced them to wearing a tracking harness. Here is Rich tracking with TPD Franky.
For the uninitiated tracking is following the trail of person. As the dog follows the trail a line is attached to the dog so that the handler can remain with the dog. The tracks ( Trails) can go on for miles sometimes and so a line attached to the collar would choke the dog.
For this reason we attach a harness which fits around the dog with a ring attached to the dogs back to make it more comfortable pulling forward as demonstrated here by TPD Flo.

On this next track I didn’t transfer the lead from TPD Floyds collar to the harness and you can see how much harder it was for TPD Floyd pulling on lead. I could lie and say that I did it for demonstration purposes but Im afraid I just forgot.

I don’t want to tempt fate but I think this litter have special working qualities and I’m very excited to see just what level we could reach with these dogs.

After tracking we did some searching for an article in bushes and undergrowth.

Here is TPD Flint eager to get going.

Here is TPD Floyd  who having worked so hard to find this glove isn’t about to give it up.
We then went into a building to do some work on sit and down stays and focus work.
Here is Karen working with TPD Freddy on his sit stay.
These exercises are vitally important because they build a bond and focus between dog and handler which will help with overall control and lots of other exercises.
Here is Ian working with TPD Fozzy on his down stay.
Look at TPD Floyd here, every fibre in his body is saying I adore you and I just want interact to and be with you.

The key is little and often and most important of all finishing the session with the dog saying I want to carry on and do some more. Talk to your dog with lots of quiet praise when your dog is doing what you require.
Be spontaneous and suddenly break off for a game of tug or just play like a complete fool for no particular reason other than keeping your dog’s spirits high. Here is Rich doing some puppy heelwork.
Considering this was their first time working in a building and with all the smells and stains on the carpet from all the hundreds of previous dogs that have worked in there I thought their focus was amazing.
Add to that the puppy walkers would have felt under pressure working individually in front of me and the other walkers.

This is testament to the work these marvellous puppy walkers have put in. Here are TPD Freya, TPD Flo and TPD Fendi showing amazing focus.

Well done to you all.

Our January intial course dogs meet their future handlers

From left to right are Puppy walker Stewart with TPD Jay and behind them TPD Jay’s new handler Ed Harris with his wife Charlette and Stewart’s wife Alison. Centre is puppy walker Jill with Rebel and behind Danni Howett who will be TPD Rebel’s new handler. Right is TPD Arnie with puppy walker Andy & new handler Dean Barker.
This was effectively our last group training day because the following week  TPD Jay and TPD Arnie were allocated to their future handlers ED Harris and Dean Barker for the January 2020 Initial Police dog course.

It was great for the puppy walkers to meet the handlers who were going to be handling their dogs on the course in January. We were also joined by the course Instructor for the January course Phil Wilson.

This was the third training day that Phil had taken the time to come out and see the dogs with their puppy walkers and it was very much appreciated.

We started with our tracking work and here is Andy quite rightly proud of the standard he has achieved with his dog TPD Arnie.

We then did some work on searching for hidden criminals and getting the dogs to bark indicating to their handler that they have located someone. Danni clearly enjoyed working with TPD Rebel.

Danni had previously handled and looked after TPD Rebel on her 3 day handler assessment to get onto the dog section.

TPD Rebel certainly enjoyed this game indicating me up in a tree.
I don’t think anyone is going to argue with TPD Jay but then again I don’t think they would argue with Stewart either.
I set the puppy walkers a test to demonstrate the control they had over their dogs. They had to leave their dog in a down stay then go and hide their toy in the woods before returning and releasing them to find it. No problem.
We finished with some criminal work for the dogs and Phil acted as the criminal. The dogs weren’t at all worried or affected by a different criminal.
TPD Arnie certainly wasn’t messing about.

Getting the sleeve off when TPD Jay has got hold of you is easier said than done.

Good luck to Danni and TPD Rebel.
Good luck to Dean and TPD Arnie.

Good luck to Ed and TPD Jay pictured here on handover day.

A painful goodbye to Dino

I brought TPD Dino home from his breeder aged 8 weeks. In the month I had him I took him to the
Devon county show and I taught him to track.

It was obvious to me that he was always going to need an experienced handler and he eventually went to live with Scott Perkins and his family. He has been with Scott for the last 5 months and the plan was for TPD Dino to be his next working GP dog once his Police dog Max retired.

Scott and his family adored him and seeing him on training days I saw nothing to concern me, quite the opposite.

At just over 8 months I was asked to take him for a few days to assess his suitability to continue as a potential general purpose dog.

Sadly my assessment was that he probably possessed too much fighting drive  (ie the will to win) and sharpness to be a general purpose Police dog in this force.

As a result I had to return Dino to his breeder who I know intends to train him and will have no trouble finding a suitable working home for him. My thoughts are with Scott and his family who are devastated. Scott will now work Max until September and who knows may end up with one of our F litter.

From Ella and I bye for now.