The Devon & Cornwall Police puppy scheme was introduced approximately 20 years ago in response to a chronic shortage of suitable German Shepherd dogs being donated to the force.
The then trainer at the Devon & Cornwall Police dog training school PC Steve Bissett started the initiative where suitable German Shepherd pups were purchased from reputable breeders of working German Shepherds at 7 weeks of age.
These pups were placed with volunteer families called puppy walkers until they were 12 to 18 months of age. They were then allocated to their new Police dog handler to commence training on a 13 week General Purpose Police Dog Initial training course.
Picture of a recent General Purpose Police Initial course successfully graduating and the new up and coming pups with their breeder John Smith and their puppy walkers.
This system has continued to the present day and has become so successful that all of our General Purpose Police dogs now come from our puppy scheme. Over the years we have developed a close relationship with our established breeders who have provided us with many excellent dogs. The advantage of raising pups in our own puppy scheme from such a young age is that we can influence how their individual characters develop by ensuring that they receive good socialisation and early training.
Jack and Zeta meeting swans on Exeter Quay
The Operational General Purpose Police dog needs to be an excellent all rounder because of the wide variety of tasks he/she needs to perform such as:-
- Tracking and searching for criminals
- Tracking and searching for vunerable or missing persons
- Searching for outstanding property/drugs
- Controlling large disorderly/violent crowds
- Defence of his/her handler against violent attack.
- Chase and detain criminal attempting to escape
Early familiarisation to a Police dog van
As can be seen from the wide range of tasks that a police dog needs to perform he/she needs to possess many outstanding qualities. These include boldness, agility, stamina, willingness, intelligence, determination, and mental toughness. Above all else a police dog needs to have a very well balanced social temperament. This is because one minute he/she can be required to deal with a violent criminal or a violent crowd and then soon after that could be required to do a presentation to a group of school children or could be engaged on operational foot patrol duties in a busy shopping centre having to cope with the challenge of busy crowds or for instance a skateboarder or a pushchair suddenly coming up behind the dog.
Early socialisation in Exeter city centre for our latest recruits left to right Murphy, Buddy, Tyson and Charlie.
On average we need to train 8 new General Purpose Police dogs per year to replace retiring Police dogs. We run 2 General Purpose initial Police dog courses each year in January and September.
We have a number of regular puppy walkers but we are always looking for new volunteers. Previous experience with dogs is not essential but is obviously an advantage. We are looking for people who are able to offer a loving home and have the time to devote to socialising our pups. Our canine development officer runs voluntary fortnightly training classes and makes regular house visits to ensure our puppy walkers are well supported. The main criteria is a completely secure garden, someone at home to ensure the maximum time a puppy is left alone does not exceed more than 2 hours, a vehicle to transport the pup and plenty of time to socialise the pup.
From left to right Thunder passed out as an operational Police dog with Devon and Cornwall in April 2013. Sally passed out with Devon and Cornwall in Feb 2013. Cleo one of our 3 brood bitches. Archie passed out with Thunder in April 2013. Nero currently training with Thames Valley Police on their initial Police dog course doing very well in week 11 and passes out next week. TI failed his initial course with Devon and Cornwall in April now working with the Prison service. Ruby currently with me and her litter of pups.
Socialising will include getting the pup used to everyday situations such as traffic, crowds, loud or unusual noises, livestock, other dogs, cats, public transport, or anything you can conceivably think of.
Training Zeta to learn to ignore livestock. Vitally important for all dogs but particularly so for a police dog who will often have to work in and around livestock.
Anyone interested should contact the Canine development officer on 07811424886 or the Dog training school on 101 01392 226399 for an application and information form.