PETS

HOW TO BE A POLICE DOG TRAINER

The only experience I have had of dog handling is with my grandmother’s small King Charles cross, so when the possibility of handling a German Shepherd was proposed, I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect.

To save any potential embarrassment I was later told that I would merely be observing police dog training, rather than participate in it.

I met three police constables near the Newbridge on Usk pub on a very foggy day this week, to learn more about what it takes for a canine to be a fully licensed police dog.

PC James Watkins, who is 42 and married, is one of the co-ordinators who helps run a police dog programme called General Purpose Basic Course, which aims to equip officers with the necessary tools to train dogs to serve in the police force.

PC Watkins told me that a lot of “hard work” goes into the training of the dogs.

He said: “You are taking a dog with absolutely no police training to then get them fully trained.

“Of course, in the beginning it is difficult but through lots of practice it becomes easier.

“And there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your dog progress.

“What is most important is seeing the dog doing their purpose and having fun.”

He added: “I have always liked dogs and when I got selected to be on the programme I was thrilled.

“We got the current dogs from West Midlands police breeding scheme.”

The intensive programme aims to get dogs certified within 12 weeks.

“It is a Monday to Friday programme,” said PC Watkins, “and it will take place from 9am to 5pm or 7am to 3pm.

“So roughly eight hour days.

“We used to joke that we would see more of our dogs that anything else.

“To pass the course, each person needs to demonstrate that their dogs have gained the necessary skills to become a police dog.”

PC Gavin Ashman said that each of the dogs live with their relevant owner, which was something I was not aware of.

He said: “They live with us and they come to work with us.