Scent-sational police dogs on parade
6 December 2012
DID you know that a dog’s sense of smell is a thousand times more sensitive than a human’s? Did you also know that dogs can smell a body through running water?
These are just some of the traits that equip West Midlands Police dogs in making a vital contribution to policing everyday across the force.
The force has around 90 working police dogs, many of which carry out a general purpose function and are usually German Shepherds. There are also a number of trained specialist search dogs who look for drugs, firearms, cash, explosives and even bodies, these are known as ‘cadaver dogs’.
Police dogs are deployed around the force every day to assist local officers in a wide variety of incidents from tracking burglars to tackling rioters.
There are seven police dog bitches that are currently working in various roles but the majority of operational dogs are male.
The website footage features the skills of Oscar the Cocker Spaniel drugs dog and general purpose German Shepherds Pip, Adonis and Ford all carrying out specialist search and tracking training.
Inspector Russell Evans, who heads the force’s dog unit, said: “We are extremely proud of our police dogs, their handlers and everyone who works at the centre. The dogs are an essential part of everyday policing and provide an added dimension to the force.
“We expect the best from our dogs and handlers; they have to deal with such a wide variety of incidents such as last year’s riots and assisting in the policing of football matches.”
Dogs and their handlers undergo a 12-week initial training course, during which the dog is taught to follow a track or scent over various kinds of terrain, to search for and locate either people or property which may be concealed. Dogs must be obedient both on and off the lead, be under the control of the handler at all times and show courage and determination when detaining someone running away or someone armed with a stick or firearm.
All operational police dogs carry out regular training refresher programmes to ensure that they continue to perform their duties appropriately in line with their licence to carry out full operational duties with its handler.
Training is carried out at the dedicated centre at Balsall Common in Solihull which was first opened in 1995 and is one of only a handful of purpose-built facilities in the country. The centre also has its own breeding scheme for Springer Spaniels and German Shepherds with approximately 12 litters of puppies born and cared for at the kennels every year.
Puppies born at the centre are given a puppy aptitude test known as the Volhard test at between six and ten weeks old. The young dogs are tested on a number of aspects such as sensitivity to touch and sound, retrieving, social dominance, willingness to follow a person and the degree of social attraction to people.
On occasion dogs are donated to the centre who may be suitable for the training programme. Police dog Smithy, a black Labrador, was initially trained as a guide dog but was donated to West Midlands Police as it was felt he would be more suitable as a police dog.
The centre trains over 100 dogs a year some of which are then sold onto armed forces, security companies and other police forces across the country.