Wednesday 16 October 2019

The F litter take their first steps in becoming tracking dogs

Pictured above is TPD Fendi getting her very first introduction to following a track or trail.

This was the F litters second training day which I split into two groups so that I could give each team additional attention. The girls attended their training session in the morning.

From left to right are TPD Flo, TPD Fendi and TPD Freya. 

Unfortunately TPD Finni’s puppy walker Sharmaine couldn’t make the session having injured her hand that morning.

The boys did their training in the afternoon.

From left to right are TPD Flint, TPD Freddy, TPD Floyd, TPD Fozzy and TPD Franky.

On arrival the boys were very well behaved.

I started each session discussing the importance of the recall. Ella then demonstrated to the puppy walkers and her pups how to do an emergency recall.

Ella then gave a demonstration of searching an area for a hidden screwdriver and having located it gave a passive indication by lying down next to it.

We then got each team to show me how their recall training was coming along. Here is TPD Fendi showing complete and utter joy recalling to her puppy walker Sarah.

It was exactly the same with TPD Freya and Jeanette.

After the recalls I gave an input on how to play search games with their pup’s favourite toy when they are out exercising their pup on a walk.

In the early stages we have the pup on a line while throwing the toy into an area where he/she has to search to find it. The dog is released to find it but as soon as he/she does the handler goes hand over hand up the line to engage in play before the pup tries to run off with it.

Freddy loved this game showing great drive to find his favourite giraffe and after a short game of tug paraded it around like he had the crown jewels.

Meanwhile TPD Floyd was starting to get bored waiting for his turn.

At 15 weeks of age I hesitated as to whether I should see if they would go over the A frame. I needn’t have worried they made it look easy. Here is TPD Flo taking it in her stride.

Her are TPD Freddy, TPD Floyd and TPD Flint all making light work of what I thought was quite a steep piece of equipment for their age.

I was very pleased with TPD Fozzy pictured here with Susannah because he had been a little aggressive and unsure on our first training session but today he was much more confident.

Next it was an introduction to the tracking which for the uninitiated is teaching the dog to follow the trail or track left by a person who has walked over the ground. Here is TPD Franky being introduced to a short track that he has just watched me lay.

We lay the trail in a curve shape to prevent the pup learning to charge ahead as he/she would if they were laid in a straight line.

All of these pups have an intense food drive which will make training them very easy. We also start with a large scuffed pad with multiple food drops in it which again stops the puppy from charging ahead. Here is TPD Fozzy on his first ever track.

All of the puppy walkers have reported that when the pups are out and about they all have their noses constantly on the ground which is something most natural tracking dogs tend to do. All of the pups showed a real intensity on this exercise.

Here are all the boys making their way back from the tracking lesson to finish off with some heelwork and focus work.

Here are the girls doing their group sits and downs in the morning.

Here are the boys showing that if the girls can do it so can they.

Throughout the day what impressed me about all of the pups was just how alert and focussed they all were. Here is TPD Flo watching her dad PD Drake doing some work in front of the pups.

Here are TPD Flo and TPD Freya ever alert and already you can see that their puppy walkers will need to have eyes in the back of their heads as these pups get older.

So that was the end of another great training session and no doubt everyone will go away and practise their skills. One thing is for sure there is no lack of enthusiasm amongst this group.

I would like to give special thanks once again to Mary who has looked after TPD Flo for me. I asked her to look after her for me for a few weeks while I did all my visits with the new pups and their walkers.

It turned into 2 months because I also then looked after TPD Jay and TPD Rebel while their puppy walkers were on holiday.

I am really pleased with all of the 9 pups and the progress that they are making. I have only had to intervene to help 3 of the puppy walkers so far but I’m sure there will be many more challenges ahead.

I spent some time with TPD Freya and her family because she was biting with a vengeance and answering back if they told her off. She is very bright and quickly realised going over the top resulted in her having unwelcome timeouts in her crate. Butter wouldn’t melt.

Lots of focus work with sits, downs, stays and a firmer approach from our puppy walking ladies have settled things down.

TPD Fendi was causing some issues for Sarah with her sometimes refusing to give up toys and bones, attacking the hoover and floor cleaner. Her drive for food is so intense we were able to address her issues working with special food treats.

Meanwhile Sarah’s control and focus exercises are coming along nicely. Sarah is developing a nice sit stay with TPD Fendi.

My next call was to TPD Flint who has started attempting to chase traffic on the lead when they walk along their local road and he attacks a metal gate they open in a lane on the same walk.

Here he is waiting on his step when I arrive looking all the world like the Lord of the manor.

I asked them to take me on their walk and I was very impressed with him meeting other dogs. Here he is meeting a wirehaired Vizsla and Irish terrier.

What was immediately apparent was the road they were walking him along was too extreme for a young pup. It was a busy country road with condensed trees making it dark and there were no main footpaths.

He clearly has chase issues but these were compounded by the noise and close proximity of vehicles with headlamps on and he was highly excited as soon as he heard them approaching.

I used a dog repellent spray to break his extreme reaction but decided this road should be avoided until work could be conducted on less extreme roads. On reaching the lane with the metal gate the high pitched screeching metallic sound sent him into attack mode.

Again I administered the spray which immediately stopped the behaviour. After that it was a simple matter of using his huge food drive to get him to sit stay for a titbit until the gate was opened.

I then took them to a busy road outside Exeter workshops which although busy has plenty of room to work away from the traffic until he gets used to the traffic.

The use of liver titbits really worked well here and he gradually ignored the traffic completely.

Once he gets completely used to general traffic in circumstances like this then later he can progress to the road where he lives.

I cannot remember a litter with such extremely high food drive. It is something we can use to our advantage.

As regards TPD Flo I am not sure whether to find her a puppy walker or to run her on myself. She gets along well with Ella but I am veering towards her having a home without another dog so that she can  develop her independence.

From Me Ella and TPD Flo bye for now.

Monday 14 October 2019

In this blog

  • Despite serious setbacks to our puppy program our January 2020 GP initial police dog course is still on track
  • Rebel undergoes remedial training to deal with his over exitability and tail chasing issues TPD Jay is a big hit at the ride to the wall armed forces memorial day

Despite serious setbacks to our puppy program our January 2020 GP initial police dog course is still on track

Here are the dogs earmarked for our January 2020 General Purpose Initial Police dog course on our recent training day. From left to right TPD Arnie and puppy walker Andy, TPD Jay with puppy walker Stewart, TPD Rebel and me, TPD Dino with Police dog handler Scott Perkins.

I was looking forward to our training day because this was my first training day with TPD Dino since he went to Scott. I had puppy walked TPD Dino in his early weeks while I waited for a suitable
Police dog handler to take him on.

TPD Dino now lives with Scott and his family and Scott’s current serving Police dog Max in Cornwall. TPD Dino and PD Max get along really well together.

Scott will be attending the January 2020 Initial Police dog course with TPD Dino and although PD Max will be retiring as a general purpose Police dog he will still continue to work with Scott in his capacity as a firearms support search dog.

We had a really good training day and although there are several more months before these dogs start their course I must congratulate the puppy walkers because their dedication to their pups means they will be starting the course already at an advanced level.

Andy is a serving Police officer with aspirations to join the dog section and considering this is his first dog he has done an excellent job with TPD Arnie.

Stewart and his wife Alison have owned their own German Shepherds in the past but TPD Jay is their first Police puppy. Here they are pictured on our previous training day.

Alison was unable to attend today’s training session and so it was down to Stewart to hold the fort.

TPD Rebel has been with me for 10 days while his puppy walkers were on holiday and it gave me an opportunity to assess the problem he has had since early puppyhood ie chasing his tail.

In the last couple of months we have lost 5 dogs from our program.  Three of the dogs TPD’s Echo, Nikki and Nero should have started our September Initial course and TPD’s Ginny & Rogue should have started our January 2020 course.

TPD’S Nero, Nikki, Ginny and Rogue all had hip dysplacia and TPD Echo developed a phobia for shiny floors. We have found excellent homes for all the dogs but it is very upsetting for all concerned and particularly for the puppy walkers who have put so much effort and time into developing them.

It is unusual to lose so many of our pups to hip dysplacia and once again highlights the health problems in the German shepherd which no breeders are immune to. 

It also highlights the value of having our puppy program and why we always acquire 12 pups to fill the 8 course vacancies that we need to fill each year.

On our training day we started as we always do with the most important exercise in a General purpose Police dogs toolbox ie tracking. This is the following of a trail left by an offender or missing person. Here is TPD Dino and Scott following a trail I laid 10 minutes previously.

Here is TPD Arnie and Andy following a trail I had just laid with TPD Arnie’s ball hidden at the end. TPD Arnie shows excellent concentration and focus on this track.

Having a dog that can already track before the start of an Initial Police dog course is of huge benefit to the Police dog trainers who run the courses because it saves them weeks of valuable time teaching it on the course.

Here is TPD Jay and Stewart following and successfully completing a similar track to his brother
TPD Arnie.

The main objective of our puppy walkers is to take a puppy into their family for on average 12 to 16 months and to socialise them and get them used to as many different situations and circumstances as possible. This will play a big part in making them a well-adjusted and confident dog when they go to their handler.

A very young TPD Arnie out with his family on the moor.

TPD Jay enjoying a swim which could be a vitally important skill for an operational Police dog tracking down a criminal one day.
We support them in that vitally important role of developing them in the community but we also realise that these dogs have very high drives and energy levels which need harnessing and so we also have voluntary fortnightly training and development sessions.
Our puppy walkers and the pups love these sessions and rarely ever miss them. They may not be Police dog handlers but they still achieve excellent results.

TPD Jay is quite an easy going laid back dog but when he decides to detain someone they are not going to be escaping that’s for sure.

In the early stages of training young dogs any change to their routine ie a new criminal helper or a different venue can affect their performance. As the development officer I am always the criminal helper for the pups but today I asked Scott to carry out that role.

I was delighted today at how quickly the dogs adjusted to a new criminal and in a venue they had never been to before. Here is TPD Arnie and Andy on their chase and attack.

Here is TPD Jay with Stewart on their chase and attack.
I was really pleased with TPD Rebel whose criminal work hasn’t been particularly strong in the past but in the 10 days he has been with me his confidence has grown.

Im not sure if it was Scott’s John Travolta Saturday night fever impression that made TPD Rebel ready to take on the world but it certainly fired him up.

I returned TPD Rebel back to his puppy walkers the following day and although I had my doubts before as to his suitability to be a Police dog having seen his progress in the 10 days we have been together I think he is going to be okay.

TPD Dino is a Belgian shepherd Malinois and like most Malinois from working lines possesses extreme tenacity and biting drive. Experience tells us that dogs with these traits need very little encouragement to bite and can be over stimulated easily.

For that reason with TPD Dino we are concentrating on obtaining and consolidating an instant leave on command and return to the handler before we start training more stimulating chase and attacks.

Next we worked on the early stages of searching for outstanding criminals and missing persons. We teach the dogs to bark when they locate vulnerable missing persons or outstanding criminals in buildings or outside areas.

Here is TPD Jay learning to bark at a person he has located and it is important that he doesn’t get too close to the person.
The reason we don’t want them to get too close is because a criminal might try to attack the dog or in the case of a vulnerable confused elderly person they might try to push the dog away not realising it is a Police dog which makes them very vulnerable.
This is why a General purpose Police dog needs to have a well-adjusted and confident character and the ability to assess each situation without being over reactive.

Here is TPD Rebel barking strongly and confidently with good distance away from the helper.

Getting a dog to bite people is easy but getting a dog who is able differentiate between different situations takes a special kind of dog.   

We then did some training work on our control and focus exercises which are the foundation of all of the exercises that our dogs do. Here is TPD Dino and Scott practising their heelwork.
Considering that TPD Dino is only 7 months old I was very impressed with the standard that Scott has achieved and the obvious bond between them.

TPD Jay and TPD Arnie have been very consistent since I collected them from Kazzardsway German shepherds in Manchester aged 8 weeks. They are both very steady well balanced dogs that take everything in their stride.

Their puppy walking handlers Stewart and Andy have an excellent relationship with their dogs and they should be proud of what they have both achieved.

With another 3 months to go before their Initial Police dog course I am looking forward to seeing just what this group can achieve.


I collected TPD Rebel from puppy walkers Terry and Jill On Monday 23rd of September to look after him for 10 days while they were on holiday and to give me the opportunity to look at the issues that they have highlighted ie tail chasing and over excitability.

They have previously informed me that he barks and chases his tail; he can be destructive, is reluctant to jump into their car, panics if you try to groom his back end and constantly jumps up.

As soon as we arrived home his sensitivity to being in an unfamiliar place and his excitability saw him launch into a barking and tail chasing ritual which is no doubt his learned coping mechanism.

My trump card for a dog like TPD Rebel is my female Ella who is so calm and well balanced and within 5 minutes they were romping around and there was no doubt that she was helping him to deal with the turmoil he was experiencing.

TPD Rebel is a victim of his breeding and genetics which is a subject I could discuss at length with regard to why there are so many German shepherds like him. He is hyperactive, excitable and sensitive.

So it is no good shouting and correcting him for what we deem to be his misdemeanours because he invariably has no idea what he has done wrong and is desperate to understand.

Getting rid of all that pent up energy and drive is key with a dog like TPD Rebel and so focus and control sessions for his favourite liver titbits was something we did every day.

He needs an outlet for his excessive drive and energy and he needs routines that he understands and most of all consistency from his owner, trainer or handler.

I was able to regularly join up with the Initial Police dog course and do some work with TPD Rebel. Here he is doing some agility, criminal work and person searching.

Every day involved 2 long walks one in the morning and one in the evening. During the walks we did regular search and seek games for his toy with him on a long line to maintain control.

Every day involved a tracking session. Here he is showing his tracking ability which is natural to him.

I took TPD Rebel into Exeter city centre for structured walks and found him to be very confident. He was sensible meeting other dogs but very reactive towards the many pigeons. I did correct him with a repellent spray for launching at the pigeons which had the immediate effect in calming him down.

If a dog understands what you require from him but decides to ignore your instructions particularly in situations which could be dangerous ie chasing traffic or animals then I believe a correction must be delivered to stop that behaviour.

Dogs are hard wired to accept a correction which starts with their mum in the litter and provided that it is justified they will respond by being more respectful and responsive to someone they see as their adored leader.

After the first 3 days the tail chasing all but disappeared and I was able to bring TPD Rebel into the front room in the evenings to let him learn how to relax. Here he is happily relaxing with Ella and chewing their bones.

With regard to his grooming this is an important part of monitoring a dogs health and also building a good bond. Sure enough TPD Rebel had a bad association of being groomed and so I started with getting him to jump up onto a table for a game with titbits.

I then used the clicker and liver titbits to condition him to short sweeps of the comb on top of the table. It wasn’t long before he would jump up onto the table for the clicker titbit game.

The issue of not wanting to jump up into a vehicle was never a problem for me. Once he realised that getting in the vehicle meant going to areas to work and exercise I couldn’t keep him out of the vehicle.

By the end of the 10 days he was a much more relaxed confident dog and the early issues of him tail chasing if he was excited or told off for anything had disappeared. I found him to be a dog with strong nerves.

All that remained for me to do was to assess his boldness. I set up a situation where I walked him through woodland and my friend Graham jumped out in front of him to assess his response. He didn’t take flight and quickly recovered to investigate him which was an excellent response.

During the first 3 days with TPD Rebel because of his hyperactive character and tendency to resort to tail chasing whenever excited or under stress I had serious doubts as to his suitability to be a Police.

But having seen the dramatic improvements in his confidence and ability to relax and his working aptitude I am sure that he could become a very competent Police dog with the right type of handler. I look forward to seeing how TPD Rebel develops.

TPD Jay is a big hit at the ride to the wall armed forces memorial

The ride to the wall is an annual event where thousands of motorcylists from around the UK come together to remember the names engraved on the walls of the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Aboretum in Staffordshire.

TPD Jay’s Puppy walkers Stewart and Alison met each other over 40 years ago in the Royal Signals Regiment and their son Jamie who was also in the Regiment was tragically killed in an accident on his motorcycle whilst travelling home on leave 5 years ago.

They travelled with their son Rory up to join the 15000 people who attended the service which raises money for service families. We provided a harness to show that TPD Jay is a service dog in training which meant he could attend the memorial area.

TPD Jay who is named after their deceased son Jamie was a very popular visitor to the event.

We leave the last word to the piper and remember all those who lost their lives.

From Ella and me bye for now.