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This week we ran our first ever Instagram Live Q&A, and what better unit to feature than the dog unit?!

We were inundated with questions from the public and dog handler PC Sam Dutton and Dogs Inspector James Brain answered as many as possible.

Here's some of your questions and our answers below, in case you don't follow us on Instagram.

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What is the training like for the dogs to become police dogs?

General purpose dogs take about three months to train and specialist search dogs take around six weeks. It includes lots of environmental training, temperament testing and most importantly, the ability to use their noses.

What dog jobs do each of the dogs do? And what qualities does the dog require?

We have general purpose dogs - used for tracking, searching, finding property and looking after their handlers.

Specialist search dogs are used to detect drugs, cash, firearms and explosives. They need to have a willingness to work, use their nose and adaptable to all environments.

What requirements do you need for your garden? i.e. size of fence etc?

As the dogs live at home with their handlers, we must ensure there is a minimum of 6ft secure fencing. However, the dogs are housed in secure purpose built kennels in our gardens, which are well insulated, with a comfy place to rest in all weather conditions.

Who gets to choose the names for the dogs?

They often come with their breeder names, but if not, the handler will get some input - as long as it is appropriate for work.

Do they live in the house with their handler or outside in kennels?

The dogs live outside in kennels in their handlers' gardens.

Do you consider other breeds of dog other than your typical spaniels/shepherds?

Yes - we have staffies too, including PD Boris, a staffie rescued from the RSPCA.

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What is the fitness test like to be a dog handler?

All police offices have to pass a fitness test (bleep test) to level 5.4. Dog handlers have to pass level 5.7.

How long is the average police dog's career before they retire?

General purpose dogs work for around eight years, and search dogs work until they are about 10.

What is the likelihood of the police dog's being lost when let off leash?

Highly unlikely as we spend a lot of time training obedience and recall - but they are still dogs!

How old does a dog have to be to be a police dog?

We start training them on a course at around 14 months old. We need to let them mature to make sure they are physically able to do the job first.

How many jobs do a dog and its handler get assigned to every day?

It really depends. Every shift is different. Night shifts tend to be busier for general purpose dog work and days for the specialist search dogs.

How do you decide which officer gets which dog?

Generally a handler will meet their dog a few weeks before embarking on their course together, so they can build a bond. You stay together for the dogs' entire career unless circumstances change.

Do you have to serve as an officer before being able to become a dog handler?

Yes you have to do a minimum of two years of probation as a regular police officer before you can specialise.

What breed of dog do you have the most of?

We have the most German Shepherds and spaniels.

I want to be a dog handler in the future, any advice for someone who wants to do the job?

You need to be a police officer for two years before you can specialise as a dog handler. My best advice to anyone considering it is to be prepared for it to become your lifestyle. If you're already in the police, try an attachment with the unit to get a feel for the job.

Can members of the public adopt police dogs when they retire or do they stay with their handlers?

Yes, if people are interested in rehoming retired dogs, they can contact us and we can put them on a waiting list. However, a lot of the time, our handlers will choose to keep their dogs when they retire.

Where can I take my daughter to meet the dogs? She loves them.

We do club and school visits when we can and any events we will be attending will be advertised on our social media channels.

What are the dogs favourite treats?

A big juicy bone!

How many dogs do Wiltshire Police have?

13 general purpose dogs and 11 specialist dogs.

As an owner of staffies, it is great to see them as police dogs. What qualities makes them good police dogs?

Great temperament, fantastic nose, willingness to work, extremely agile.

Do the dogs wear body armour/bulletproof vests?

Ours don't but dome other forces or military dogs do.

What happens to any dogs that don't quite make the grade as a police dog?

They will be found a suitable and loving home.

Where do the dogs go when they retire?

More often than not, they stay with their handlers, or they are found suitable new homes with members of the public.

Are the dogs good family pets as well as working dogs? Or do you keep them separate from family?

The police dogs are very much part of the handler's family, however, they are working dogs and generally speaking are kept separate. It's important they understand their roles.

What advice would you give a training PC who wants to be a dog handler one day?

Speak to the dog section and ask about getting an attachment to see what it is really like.

Where do you get your dogs from?

A lot of our search dogs are provided by rescue centres. For example, PD Ted came from the RSPCA at West Hatch, and the general purpose dogs come from other forces who have breeding programmes, or reputable breeders.

What's the longest distance one of your dogs has sniffed a suspect or item from?

The dogs can follow a scent of a suspect for miles. This can be over multi-terrain, through countryside, towns etc.

Would you ever consider using Dobermans?

We generally use German Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds and we have a Dutch Herder Shepherd. You never know though!

If a random breed of dog had all the skills required for a police dog, would they be considered?

We will always keep an open mind!

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How can I become a puppy walker?

Sadly, we don't have a puppy walking scheme in Wiltshire.

Who is the most vicious dog?

They aren't vicious - they are trained to detain people and look after their handlers.

When you are training new dogs on courses, do you use clicker training/treats/toys?

The dogs are trained using positive enforcement.

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Besides being in the police for two years, what else are you looking for in a potential handler?

Motivation, ability to work on your own, self-motivation, resilience, happy to be wet, muddy and cold, patience.

Who brushes the dog's teeth?

The handlers.

Do you cuddle the dogs?

The handlers show their dogs affection as building a bond with their dog is really important.

As an officer with a police dog, do you feel safer or more vulnerable when out on duty?

Safer - I always know my dogs have my back when out on duty.

 

  • We hope to run more Q&As on our Instagram in the future - you can follow us on Instagram by searching wiltshirepolice.
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