West Midlands Police display is one of the highlights at Crufts each year. We spoke to David Raymond, breed scheme manager and instructor, to gain an insight into the life of a dog handler.Find out when their display is on!
West Midlands Police display is one of highlights at Crufts each year, what do you love most about doing it?
We are all volunteers who represent the Police during crufts. I really enjoy meeting like-minded dog enthusiasts, its great public engagement. But my main high light is working the dogs in the main arena and GCDS ring, I love showing the dogs capability’s off but also the social side of our dogs that we breed. I get to let of some steam as Mr Angry.
What does a typical day in the life of a dog handler look like?
Handlers are extremely busy and demand is high, they could be dealing with public order, burglary’s, car jackings, drug searches, planned searches, bomb threat responses, searching for vulnerable missing people, dangerous dog offences, firearms jobs and public engagement
What breeds are used as police dogs and why?
We use German shepherds, Dutch herders and Malinois for General purpose work, they tend to be sociable and are very clear headed. Good witch when to work or when to relax. The stable temperament is critical for a working dog. They have also got great presence
We use English springer spaniels, cockers and labs for search work. They tend to be sociable and have a natural desire to work and search.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a dog handler?
The most rewarding aspect of working on the dog unit is getting to work with lots of wonderful animals and seeing the operational results of the dogs
West Midlands Police are known for breeding excellent police dogs, what is the key to your success?
The key is carefully selected genetics, stringent health tests and temperament tests. A structured training program with clear foundations. We would not have a dog unit without our Army of puppy fosterers.
We appreciate they are all highly trained, but do they still get scared at times?!
You do initially feel apprehensive. But you begin to love it
What is the journey of a police dog from puppy to licensed police dog?
A puppy is born at our kennels and is raised with its mother and support of our animal welfare officers. Pups will go through the early neuro stimulation program. We allocate pups to our volunteer fosterers, where they follow a socialisation and training program with regular assessments. Pups will get allocated to officers about 15 months of age to get a nice bond before attending a 13 week initial course. The new teams will learn all aspects of police dog handling, this will include tracking, property search, obedience, building searches, dog first aid ,criminal work and crowd control.
You have a strong following from members of the public on your social media channels, why do you think this is?
I initially thought people liked the cute pictures of puppies, obviously this helps. But the public really like to hear about the amazing work the handlers and dogs do, especially when they are helping vulnerable people.
What is the best thing about being a dog handler?
My role is breed scheme manager and instructor. The most rewarding thing is seeing dogs mature from puppies to becoming fully fledged operational dogs, my last dog Captain has just passed licensing with his new handler and my current puppy Stark I have been training is due to be allocated to his handler to start a course in January.
Does it hurt when you get bitten in the protective suit?
You can feel pressure and sometimes bruise but with neoprene and the suits they provide good protection.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you on duty?
Will have a think about this one. As we would probably find it funny , but may not be appropriate.
What advice would you give to an aspiring dog handler?
I would go to your local dog training club and learn the basics, always keep learning and share ideas. Dog training is evolving continually and there is new science every day about canine behaviour and learning principles. Puppy walking is another great way to learn the basics.