Police dogs, also known as general purpose or GP dogs
Many of you have been interested and enchanted by our coverage of the in force puppy breeding and training programme: now find out what these magnificent animals do when they are grown up and in active service
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Q: What is meant by the term “general purpose” or “GP” dog?
A: The police use various terms such as ‘GP dog’ to describe the police dogs the public are used to seeing and would recognise as being police dogs, namely the German Shepherds and Shepherd crosses that we use for every day policing such as searching for people and property, tracking, public order deployments, reassurance patrols and public engagement.
Q: How many GP dogs are working in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset?
A: There are forty GP handlers: 10 in Cornwall, 20 in Devon and 10 in Dorset. They can and do move across county borders. These handlers each have a ‘GP’ dog but will also, quite often, also handle a specialist search dog, normally from a working breed like a Spaniel or Labrador.
Q: How old are police dogs when they start work, and how long do they stay in service?
A: Police Dogs normally start work with us between 18 months and two years old. They usually retire at eight years old but each dog is different and decisions are made on a dog by dog basis. Every dog has its own character but they all love to work. The handlers have very strong bonds with their dogs and it’s important that they are consulted about the right time to retire their partner.
Q: How long does it take to train a GP dog?
A: Because the Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Alliance mainly breeds its own dogs, the training program and socialisation starts from the moment they are born with simple things like obedience training and getting them used to people and traffic, the sort of thing everybody would do with their own pet. This initial training is always fun. They are assessed as to whether they are suitable for full training and will then undergo a 13 week training course with their handler. The Alliance is very grateful to the members of the public, the puppy walkers, who give up their time to help look after the young pups and get them ready for training. The 13 week course is just the beginning, very like a student police officer - we will not have the finished article until they have experienced at least 12 months of operational work, whereby they receive continuation training with a qualified instructor throughout the year. Training and development of the dog is done on a daily basis by the handler throughout its working life.
Q: Where do Devon, Cornwall and Dorset get their GP dogs from?
A: We have bred four litters successfully, but a large proportion of the pups are acquired by Paul Glennon from reputable established breeders of working lines. These pups are then placed with puppy walkers and Paul manages their training and development. In Paul Glennon we have one of the country’s foremost breed managers working for us, who is an expert in breeding and bringing on dogs for us. Some people will remember Paul as a winner of the National Police Trials some years ago. There isn’t too much he doesn’t know about police dogs.
Q: Is seizing or biting a person the only way a GP police dog can subdue a suspect or control a situation?
A: The presence of a police dog is normally enough to subdue most suspects - who wants to be bitten by an animal that can out run and jump most people? The dogs also bark loudly to indicate the presence of people that they find.
Q: How much are GP dogs used across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset?
A: Police dogs and handlers attend approximately 5% of all incidents reported to the Police. They are busy! The dogs are available 24/7 and 365 days of the year.
Q: Are police dogs police officers? They are often referred to as, for instance, “PD” for “Police Dog” like PC for Police Constable.
A: Police Dogs are not officers but they are very much part of the police family and are cared for and loved by their handlers.