Friday, 18 December 2020

AFTER 13 HARD WEEKS OUR 6 F LITTER DOGS AND PD ACE FINALLY GRADUATE AS OPERATIONAL

The 13 week General purpose Police dog course commenced on the 7th of September 2020 and finally concluded on Thursday 3rd December when the 7 successful teams shared the day with their puppy walkers before departing to serve as Operational Police dog teams in their respective areas.

Rear left to right are PC Rhys Thomas with PD Fozzy, Paul Glennon with PD Floyd, PC Graham Attwood course Instructor, PC Alex Kimmins with PD Franky and PC Scott Perkins with PD Ace.

Front left to right are PC Sam Harris with PD Flo, PC Phil Wilson course Instructor, PC John Warren with PD Flint and PC Andy Parsons with PD Freddy.

Normally we run 2 courses a year in January and September with 4 handlers on each course. Four handlers is the maximum number we allocate to one Instructor. Because of unexpected retirements we had 7 handlers needing a dog and so we split the September course into 2 groups  instead of the usual one with 2 Instructors.

Course 1: From left to right Sam with PD Flo, Instructor Phil Wilson, John with PD Flint and Andy with PD Freddy.


Course 2: From left to right Myself and PD Floyd, Kimmo with PD Franky, Instructor Graham Attwood, Scott with PD Ace and Rhys WITH PD Fozzy.


THE TEAMS

GP Initial Police dog course 1

Instructor Phil Wilson

Phil pictured here in the early stages of PD Freddy’s tracking training is an Instructor in the Police dog training school at HQ. This is his second GP Initial Police dog course and prior to that he was a geographical trainer. He has experience with GP, Drugs and Explosive search dogs.

Sam and PD Flo 


Sam is a first time handler who will be based in North Devon. PD Flo is from our F litter and here she is pictured at 7 weeks.


PD Flo has had several puppy walkers and started with Mary for the first 2 months. Mary helps out with puppy walking the smaller pups for short periods when other puppy walkers have commitments such as holidays etc.

After Mary she was puppy walked by long time experienced puppy walkers Terry and Jill. Here they all are pictured with Sam and PD Flo at the passing out parade.


John and PD Flint

John is a first time handler who will be serving in Plymouth. PD Flint is from our F litter pictured here at 7 weeks.

PD Flint has been puppy walked by first time puppy walkers Dave and Sarah. Since PD Flint was allocated to John, Sarah and David have acquired their own German Shepherd called Troy from GSD Rescue. We wish them luck and based on what a great job they have done with PD Flint I think Troy will have a great life ahead of him.

Here are David and Sarah with PD Flint at his passing out parade.


Andy and PD Freddy 


Andy is a first time handler who has been trying to become a dog handler for a number of years. To improve his chances of achieving his dream he volunteered to become a puppy walker.

He successfully puppy walked PD Arnie who is now a Police dog in Ashburton. He then also puppy walked his current dog PD Freddy from the age of 6 months. To my knowledge he is the first Police officer to puppy walk a Police pup and then join the dog section with him.

PD Freddy was originally puppy walked by Rod and Karen Jackson but at 6 months Rod’s failing health meant that he couldn’t give PD Freddy the exercise he needed any more. It was then that Andy stepped in to take over PD Freddy’s development little knowing that one day he would be his own Police dog.

Here is PD Freddy aged 7 weeks.


Rod and Karen were devastated to have to give him up because they loved puppy walking and had previously successfully puppy walked another one of our pups PD Nico who is now a serving Police dog in Plymouth

PD Nico’s handler is Sgt Andy Coleman who will now be the supervisor of Andy and PD Freddy.

Rod and Karen’s day was complete when they attended PD Freddy’s passing out parade because Sgt Andy Coleman also attended to see Andy & PD Freddy passing out and they were reunited with both of the dogs that they had puppy walked. 



GP Initial Police dog course 2

Instructor PC Graham Attwood

Graham is renowned for his love of cakes and in return for his expertise his students understand that they must take it in turn to bake a cake and present it to the course on a Monday morning.

Instructing on an Initial course is extremely demanding i.e. laying tracks and acting as criminal certainly burns off the calories and this picture seems to show that despite all the cakes he is looking trim and has got rid of the spare tyre.

But Graham just remember to keep on top of it because that spare tyre is never very far away.

Graham is a very experienced Instructor who is based in the dog training school at HQ. He has taken numerous GP Initial Police dog courses. He is an explosive search dog Instructor and in the last few years has introduced electronic and digital detection search dogs into the Police in the UK.

After running courses for electronic & digital search dog teams he is now also running courses for handlers wishing to become electronic & digital Instructors. As a result of his pioneering work our Alliance now have the National lead in this work.

Kimmo and PD Franky

Kimmo is a first time handler who will be based at Ferndown in Dorset with PD Franky. PD Franky is from our F litter and is pictured here at 7 weeks.

PD Franky was puppy walked by first time puppy walkers Rich and Leah and are pictured here with PD Franky and Kimmo on his passing out parade.


Rhys and PD Fozzy 

Rhys is a first time handler who will be based at Exeter dog section with PD Fozzy. PD Fozzy is from our F litter and is pictured here at 7 weeks. 

PD Fozzy was puppy walked by Lyn, John and their son Ian Parlour. They are our most experienced puppy walkers and are pictured here with PD Fozzy and Rhys on his passing out parade. 


Scott and PD Ace 


Scott is an experienced handler whose current dog PD Max recently retired after an extremely successful Police dog career with Scott.

PD Ace was donated to the force by Angie and Phil in January this year aged 15 months having rescued him from kennels in Cornwall aged 6 months.

He lived with me from January to June this year during which time I was able to train and develop him. 

In June I handed him over to Scott with a heavy heart because he remineded me so much of my old dog PD Spud. I found PD Ace an easy dog to train and live with and in the right hands a potential superstar. In the wrong hands an accident waiting to happen because of his speed, determination and drive.

Scott did a great job with his previous dog PD Max and having watched Scott and PD Ace during the course I have no doubt they have a great future ahead of them.

Scott and PD Ace will be based at Camborne Police dog section and are pictured here at PD Ace’s passing out parade with Angie and Phil.

 


PD Floyd and Canine development officer Paul Glennon

We decided at the start of the course that PD Floyd needed an experienced handler. Unfortunately we didn’t have an experienced handler needing a dog and so rather than sell such a promising dog out of force I volunteered to handle and train PD Floyd on the course.

He came to live at our house which is where he was born and I started training with him. He has been an absolute pleasure to handle and live with. 

Now that he has qualified as a Police dog a handler has been identified i.e. Mike Green on Dorset dog section.

He will be going to Mike after Xmas for a few weeks of bonding before doing a 2 week re-handling course in the new year.  Here is PD Floyd at 7 weeks of age.

He has been puppy walked by first time puppy walkers Simon and Rebecca De-Costa who are pictured here at PD Floyd’s passing out parade.


A SUMMARY OF THE SEPTEMBER 2020 INTIAL POLICE DOG COURSE

In my last blog the teams had just completed week 4 of the course and all were progressing well.  The only exception was Amanda who’s first dog Bruno had been released because he lacked determination and Amanda was starting again with TPD Fendi from our F litter. 

Sadly for personal reasons Amanda was unable to complete the remainder of the course and has now embarked on a new challenge on the Tactical aid group.

We were all sad to see Amanda leave but she has told me that at this stage of her career it was the right decision and that she is enjoying her new role.

TPD Fendi was unable to go back to her original puppy walker Sarah due to a change in Sarah’s circumstances. She is now with our most experienced puppy walker Lyn Parlour.

 


WHAT DOES THE COURSE INVOLVE

The 13 week General purpose Initial Police dog course is without doubt the most demanding dog training course there is. 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.

The teams have been trained in the following disciplines and skills.

  • To track and search for outstanding criminals and vulnerable missing persons
  • Searching for lost or stolen items of property
  • Dealing with fleeing or violent criminals
  • Dealing with violent or disorderly crowds
  • Developing their agility to enable them to negotiate physical obstacles
  • Teaching the dog control exercises that ensure the dog is under the complete control of the handler at all times
  • Familiarisation with the Force helicopter


TRACKING  

By far and away the most used operational skill is the ability to follow the tracks or trails of offenders and vulnerable missing persons in rural and urban areas.

Here is PD Flint with handler John in the early weeks under the supervision of Instructor Phil. 

As the course progresses the level of difficulty increases. Here is PD Franky with handler Kimmo tracking across country to locate and deal with an offender. 


On this occasion the offender didn’t try to escape or offer any violence and so PD Franky was placed in a controlled position while Kimmo conducted a search and handcuff procedure.

PD Franky has been trained to stay in the down until his handler returns to him but he will respond immediately to defend his handler if needed. 

The handlers have to be physically fit because criminals who are desperate to escape will keep going for miles crossing all types of obstacles and terrain. Here is PD Ace getting Scott’s lungs working up this steep hill.

In the latter half of the course the teams were regularly tracking at night time on quiet industrial estates on tarmac and concrete surfaces.

By the end of the course tracking on concrete, tarmac and gravel was fairly routine for all of the dogs.


All of the dog teams on this course have achieved an outstanding level of competence with their tracking.

Here is a video of Sam & PD Flo showing just how proficient they have become on the course. As impressive as PD Flo’s track is I can confidently say that the other 6 teams would also have successfully completed this track. 



Since leaving the course Sam and PD Flo successfully tracked an offender for 500 metres all on hard surface in Barnstaple town centre on their first shift.


SEARCHING FOR PERSONS

If we don’t have a starting point to track after a person then the dog is trained to search for criminals or vulnerable missing persons by air scenting in large open outside areas or buildings. Providing that the person the dog is searching for offers no violence to the dog or handler then the dog will to bark to alert his/her handler that he/she has located someone.

Here is PD Floyd locating a crime suspect hiding in undergrowth and being rewarded for a safe passive indication. 


In the Devon, Cornwall and Dorset areas we have a high proportion of elderly retired people and we spend a lot time looking for missing vulnerable persons. Its therefore very important that our  dogs don’t view every search as an aggressive exercise.

Here is Andy working with PD Freddy dealing with a vulnerable missing person scenario. There were a number of points raised on the debrief but all in all I thought this was a good effort by the team.

 


SEARCHING PROPERTY ITEMS WHICH ARE EITHER LOST OR THE SUBJECT OF CRIME

The dogs are trained to search for and locate items of property or articles discarded or hidden by criminals or items lost by members of the public. They are trained to indicate the items passively i.e. not to bite or mouth them to ensure any DNA is preserved which could later identify an offender.

In this scenario PD Fozzy has been tasked to search an area where a suspected drug dealer has discarded his mobile phone. PD Fozzy indicates that he has found it by going into a down position.

Here is Kimmo and PD Franky in a scenario where they are searching an area for several items of stolen discarded property.


CONTROL WORK

Control work exercises such as heel work, stays, recalls, send-a-way's and distance control are all exercises that form the foundation for all the work that a Police dog undertakes. It is all achieved through repetition and reward based training.

Here is Scott and PD Ace giving an excellent demonstration of how control work ( otherwise known in Police training as obedience which is not a term I like) can be extremely enjoyable for dog and handler which in turn builds a strong bond.

 


Here are PD’S Freddy, Flo and Flint practising their group work. 

The control work builds focus and concentration onto the handler which in turn builds a bond between dog and handler and ultimately better control. Perfectly demonstrated here with Andy and Freddy. 

In addition to individual heelwork the dogs also do a lot of group work to make sure they are neutral working alongside other dogs. 

Here are PD’s Franky, Floyd, Ace and Fozzy doing group work under the instruction of Graham.


AGILITY

Agility is an extremely important skill for a Police dog because they are constantly encountering obstacles such as walls, fences, farm gates and hedgerows when searching or tracking offenders and missing persons.

Agility training is developed as a game for their favourite toy and is progressed very gradually  throughout the course to build confidence as the obstacles become more difficult.

Control is introduced once the dog is enjoying negotiating the different obstacles to make sure that the dog is in the correct position and doesn’t attempt to clear the obstacle until told to do so thus reducing the likelihood of injuring themselves.

Here is PD Fozzy negotiating the hurdle, PD Franky the window jump and PD Ace the long jump. 



We start the 6 foot high scale jump using a front board in the early stages. Here is PD Fozzy showing of his hand stand routine. 

Once the dogs have built up a confidence and enjoyment of the agility obstacles we take away the front board on the scale and they are happy to tackle the actual scale jump without the board as demonstrated here by PD Floyd.

 


CRIMINAL WORK

Criminal work or the more modern term ‘Use of force’ work encompasses a collection of exercises and disciplines.

THE CHASE AND DETAIN

This is where the handler believing a substantial offence has taken place and the offender is attempting to escape and has ignored a challenge to stop then the handler sends his/her dog to detain the offender. Here is Rhys sending his dog PD Fozzy. 


THE CHASE AND STAND OFF 

One of the most difficult exercises for a Police dog to perform is the stand-off. This is where the dog is sent to detain a fleeing criminal but must not bite if the criminal stops running and gives up before the dog gets to him.

 


THE EMERGENCY RECALL

 This exercise is where a Police dog is in hot pursuit of a fleeing offender and needs to be recalled immediately. It could be because the dog is heading towards a busy main road or has targeted the wrong person. There are many reasons that a handler may need to get his/her dog back immediately.

This is Kimmo completing the exercise successfully with PD Franky on her licensing assessment under the watchful eye of our assessor Hugh and the pressure was really on. 

 

WEAPON ATTACK

 Our dogs are trained to defend themselves and their handler against anyone armed with a weapon.  

With the ready availability of armed officers and a significant number operational officers now carrying taser guns and captor incapacitant sprays a dog is very unlikely to be deployed to disarm anyone brandishing a bladed weapon or gun.

Here is a video of PD Floyd dealing very confidently with a criminal armed with a gun. 

Here is PD Ace dealing in his usual determined and no nonsense way with a criminal armed with a stick. 


DEALING WITH A VIOLENT OR VOLITILE CROWD

 This is a common situation that our dogs have to deal with to restore order and we practised it on a regular basis during the course.

Here is a video of PD Flint dealing very confidently with a volatile crowd at night time. Despite a little over acting from our criminal Phil PD Flint took it all in his stride. 


HELECOPTOR FAMILIARISATION

  All Police dog teams receive familiarisation with the Force helicopter because we never know when they will need to get from one area to another in a hurry.

It important that the handler knows the procedures and the dogs also need to be confident and relaxed.

Here is PD Flo undertaking her session. The dogs do have to be muzzled as a precaution because as unlikely as it is that they will bite the crew we can never take that chance. 

LICENSING ASSESSMENTS

In the penultimate week all of the dogs underwent a 2 day assessment of all of the disciplines that I have outlined. Suffice to say they all passed with flying colours.

I cannot remember a course when all of the dog teams have reached such a high standard as these teams.

Prior to starting their Initial course I should point out that all of the dogs have received training in tracking, searching, criminal work and control work which includes heelwork and down stays on their fortnightly training sessions with their puppy walkers.

This groundwork without doubt makes life much easier for the Instructors who are then able to deliver a much higher standard of excellence when the teams start their operational deployment.      

Naturally I am extremely proud of Ella and her F litter to have 6 of her pups licensed as Police dogs. We got hold of Mark and PD Drake who sired the litter and took a photo of the proud parents and their pups.


PASSING OUT PARADE

Because of Covid we had to have two separate passing out parades to reduce the numbers in one place. Sadly the families of the dog handlers were not allowed to attend to reduce risk. The puppy walkers who are classed as volunteers were able to attend but had to remain with their cars during the display. 


Ed Harris an Exeter dog handler kindly took video of the displays to give the handlers and their families a record of the day.  

After 2 excellent displays the puppy walkers were reunited with their pups which I still find very emotional to watch. Here is a short montage of both displays that Ed kindly put together for me. 

Supt Cara Sherwood then presented each individual puppy walker with a photo of their pup and a certificate in recognition of their huge contribution.

Here is Simon with his girls Krista and Maddie who puppy walked PD Floyd being presented with theirs.  

Then that was it, the end of the Initial course and the handlers and dogs disappearing to their respective areas to start the next stage of their journey.

Good luck to them all. At the time of writing this blog PD Flo, PD Freddy and PD Flint have all had their first operational prisoners. I have no doubt the others will soon follow suit.

As always I would like to thank our puppy walkers for all of their hard work and sacrifice which has played a major part in what these wonderful dogs have achieved so far.

I have really enjoyed working PD Floyd and I have really enjoyed watching all the dog teams developing their dogs to the standard that they have. My thanks to Instructors Phil and Graham for the fantastic job that they have done.

I am especially grateful to Graham for allowing me onto his course and putting up with a cantankerous old git who probably should have retired a long time ago. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of your course. 

Finally I am delighted to say that Ella is expecting pups which are due on the 9th of January 2021. The Sire is a dog called Fernando owned by Lyn Camden who I have had my eye on for some time. 

Look forward to seeing you all in 2021 so from me Ella and PD Floyd bye for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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