Monday 23 September 2019

The September 2019 initial police dog course gets underway

The September 2019 initial police dog course gets underway

The 2019 Initial Police dog course has just completed week 2 of the 13 week course. From left to right are TPD Ernie with the course Instructor Graham Attwood, TPD Rana with handler Jenna Bushby Dorset Police, Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer Devon and Cornwall Police, TPD Nico with handler Andy Coleman Devon and Cornwall Police and TPD Tank ( Previously Errol) with handler Elizabeth Porcher Dorset Police.

I was in the process of taking the course photo when unbeknown to the course the Chief Constable  just happened to be passing by behind them.

Our Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer has always been a strong supporter of our dog section and so it was only natural that we should ask him to join us.

The General purpose Initial Police dog course is without doubt the most intense and challenging course that there is in Police dog training.

Here are Jenna and TPD Rana in the early stages of schooling a dog to follow a track or trail.
The reason the course is so demanding is because of the wide range of skills, disciplines and diversity of different tasks that a General purpose Police dog has to master.

Here is Elizabeth with TPD Tank ( Errol) in the early stages of indicating an article he has located by lying down and not touching it. A Police dog should always indicate any article he/she finds by passively indicating the article.

The dogs will be conditioned to follow tracks or trails of criminals who have left a crime scene or of vulnerable missing persons across all types of terrain.

Here is Andy and TPD Nico in the early stages of this exercise.

They will learn to search for outstanding criminals and vulnerable missing persons using air scent and to indicate to their handler when they have found them by barking.

They will learn to deal with violent volatile crowds and to defend their handler against attack. They will learn to chase and detain a fleeing criminal and to disarm a criminal who is armed with a weapon.

Here is TPD Rana showing the determination and confidence needed to perform this role.

Determination is certainly not in question here with TPD Ernie pictured on a training day with his puppy walker Dave about to set off on a chase and attack exercise.

Underpinning all of the disciplines is the handler having total control over his/her dog at all times. This is achieved by regular control and focus work (Obedience) which is practised every day.

Here are TPD’s Tank (Errol) and TPD Nico in the early stages of learning distance control.

As I have already highlighted the course is very demanding both physically and mentally for both handlers and dogs but there is one sure way of lifting a dogs spirits at the end of a hard day and that is with a session of criminal work.

As I write this blog all the teams are doing well after completing 2 weeks of the course. We have had some issues with TPD Tank ( Errol) being distracted by animal smells during some of his work and our vet has prescribed a course of chemical castration which we hope will eradicate or reduce this problem.

Meet the teams

Jenna and TPD Rana

Jenna is a first time handler and on completion of the course will be stationed at Ferndown in Dorset.
TPD Rana was bred by Walther Verbruggen in Belgium and I imported her aged 15 weeks to join our program.

TPD Rana has been puppy walked by Mitzi and Colin Belsher who have already successfully puppy walked a number of pups for us and lives in Newton Abbot.

TPD Rana wasn’t intended for this course but has been brought forward due to several of the dogs intended for this course having to be released from our program because their hip x rays showed that their hips were not satisfactory for the rigours of Police work.


PS Andy Coleman and TPD Nico 

Andy is also a first time handler who recently became the dog section supervisor for Ashburton and Plymouth dog sections. On completion of the course Andy and TPD Nico will be based at Plymouth

TPD Nico was bred by Bernard Horton of Kazzardsway German shepherds in Manchester and came to us aged 8 weeks. He has been puppy walked by first time walkers Rob and Karen Jackson.

PC Elizabeth Porcher and TPD Tank (Errol)

Elizabeth or as she is affectionately known Porch is a first time handler in Dorset and on completion of the course will be stationed at Ferndown.

Porch may be a first time handler but she has experience having worked in rescue kennels, which is always a good grounding to have in understanding dog character, reading dog body language and developing handling skills.

TPD Tank (Errol) is from our E litter and has been puppy walked by first time puppy walkers Sue and Andy McCarthy in Lewdown, Devon.

TPD Ernie

TPD Ernie started the course paired with Jenna. It was apparent within the first couple of days that TPD Ernie had too much drive, power and speed for a novice handler and so the decision was made to pair Jenna with TPD Rana.

As there isn’t an experienced handler within the alliance needing a General purpose dog the decision has been made that TPD Ernie will be handled by the course Instructor Graham Attwood and will live with Graham and his family until the conclusion of the course.

As a puppy through no fault of his own TPD Ernie’s first two puppy walkers didn’t work out and he went to stay with his current puppy walkers Dave, Viv and grandson Jack when still only 3 months old.

I have a real soft spot for TPD Ernie who just lives to work and with the right handler I have no doubt will be an outstanding dog.

My tribute to our unsung heroes our puppy walkers

Our Instructors and handlers are always grateful for the work that our puppy walkers do in developing and preparing their dogs. But it is not until you work closely with the walkers that you realise just what an incredible job they do.

We have had a puppy program in Devon and Cornwall for over 30 years and in the last 10 years with few exceptions all of our General purpose dogs have come from our puppy program.

Here is TPD Nico arriving at our house aged 8 weeks.

Our puppies are acquired from various breeders in the UK and we breed the occasional litter of our own. Here is TPD Tank ( Errol) from our E litter leaving our house where they were born to go with his puppy walkers Andy and Sue at 8 and a half weeks.

Here is TPD Ernie who is also from our E litter aged 7 weeks. Even then he always had that self-assured character.

In recent years it has become more difficult to purchase top working puppies in the UK and so we have imported a number of puppies from Germany, Holland and Belgium.

We cannot import them until they are 15 weeks because of the rabies laws. This invariably means we have some catching up to do in terms of their socialisation training. Here is TPD Rana arriving at 15 weeks from Belgium.

The pups are then with their puppy walkers for approximately 12 to 16 months until allocation to their handlers. The objective of our puppy walkers is to introduce them to as many different situations and experiences as they can in that time.

Here is Sue with a young TPD Tank (Errol) getting him used to walking on a loose lead and under control by a busy main road where they live.

We run fortnightly development and training classes which are voluntary. Although they are voluntary it is rare that our puppy walkers ever miss a session.

Here is TPD Nico on his first session aged 12 weeks with Karen showing he already understands the down stay.

Within two sessions this had been progressed with TPD Nico ( Centre)  doing the down stay in a group aged just 4 months.

Sadly TPD Nico’s brother Nico and sister Nikki also pictured should have been on the current Initial course but were two of the dogs that had to be released due to poor hips.

On our early sessions the pups are taught control exercises such as the sit, down, down stay, heelwork and the recall.

Here is TPD Ernie doing some early recall work with Dave.
Probably our most important exercise is tracking ie schooling the dog to follow the trail of an offender or missing person. We start this with our pups as early as 3 to 4 months.

Our puppy walkers are taught to lay tracks and here is Andy laying a track for TPD Tank. ( Errol)

As a result of the work put in by Andy and Sue TPD Tank (Errol) has really progressed on this exercise.

Here he is earlier this year making light work of a track with 2 changes of direction which was laid 15 minutes before he attempted it.

We do individual sessions in the city centre working on all of the various distractions and challenges presented in such a busy environment. Here is TPD Ernie going into Debenhams on the various shiny floors, lifts and escalators.
Here is Sue working with TPD Tank ( Errol ) in Exeter city centre schooling him to walk on a loose lead ignoring distractions.
A firm favourite is our farm visit where the objective is to get the pups comfortable and relaxed around livestock. TPD Nico and TPD Rana are pictured here behaving calmly and sensibly with the calves and chickens.

I had look after TPD Ernie for the E litter farm visit and for such a driven and determined high energy dog he was so laid back it was unbelievable. Here he is with TPD Tank ( Errol ) completely chilled with the sheep and calves.

Another favourite is the Devon county show where we can really gauge the confidence of the pups with the huge crowds, dogs, animals, noise etc.

Here are the E litter who were only 12 weeks old and were completely unfazed by anything they encountered that day.

Here is TPD Rana completely at ease meeting other dogs and crowds.
She is also completely unfazed with this extremely noisy fairground ride.

Here is TPD Nico who was a little unsure initially walking on the aluminium skirts but soon recovered and was became completely confident with all the rides and surfaces as the day progressed.

Here is a very young TPD Tank ( Errol ) taking part in a small display in the arena with the E litter.

We are not out to test the pups but to develop and educate them thus building their confidence and building resilience.

As the  pups approach 8 to 12 months we start their introduction to person searching, criminal work and agility. Here is Mitzi and TPD Rana showing she is not going to be a girl to mess with on her chase and detain exercise.

Here is TPD Tank ( Errol ) doing an outside person search with Andy.

Our puppy walkers are not dog handlers or trainers they are just everyday people often not in in the flush of youth who are handling powerful excitable dogs. Here is Mitzi tracking with TPD Rana.

Here she is getting TPD Rana to bark.

Here is her husband Colin in the early stages of agility with TPD Rana.
Here is 9 year old Olivia showing that TPD Tank ( Errol) may be a big powerful dog but when you have a connection like she does walking a dog like TPD Tank ( Errol) is no problem.
Very few people realise just how committed our puppy walkers are and just how much time and effort has gone into developing our pups.

That is why I am always quite depressed when one of our pups doesn’t make the grade and has to be released from the program. Here is Echo ( Centre) with TPD Tank ( Errol) left and TPD Ernie ( Right) on a recent training day.

Echo had to be released because she developed an issue with some floor surfaces.

Here is TPD Nico ( Centre) with his brother Nero ( Left) and sister Nikki ( Right) after a training session. Sadly we also had to release Nero and Nikki due to their hip x rays showing their hips were not of the required standard to be a Police dog.
They have all been placed in very loving homes. I have visited all 3 to see how they are settling in their new homes. It was obvious that they were all very happy with their new dogs and it put my mind at rest having seen them all.

Nikki has gone to Jeff and Lorriane Sloan in Horrabridge.
Nero has gone to Jacko and Linda with their old Jack Russell Tipsy in Exeter.
Echo has gone to Alix and Peter Crowther in Strete.

I would like to sign off by thanking Echo’s puppy walkers Paul and Michelle, Nicki’s puppy walker Margaret, and Nero’s puppy walkers Chris and Lindsay for all of their hard work and although they didn’t make Police dogs they can rest assured that they are all happy in their new homes.

I will be doing another blog this week about the F litter’s first training day. I will be doing a further blog around week 7 of the current Initial course updating everyone on how the dog teams are doing.

From Ella and I bye for now.

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