Lancashire Dogs - Police dogs at Lancashire Constabulary HQ, Hutton
PUBLISHED: 16:28 23 November 2012 | UPDATED: 16:48 25 February 2016
Emily Rothery heads for Police headquarters to meet some four-legged crime fighters
Anna Woods has an air of calm and authority as she leads her police dogs onto the field at Lancashire Constabulary’s HQ at Hutton. She has worked with the dogs for eight years and, although she regards them as her partners, it is clear that Anna is very much in control.
Anna, a PC who works with two dogs, explains that safety, control and efficiency are the key factors in training and subsequent operations. The initial training is intense, both physically and mentally, and puts both dogs and handlers through their paces a few weeks.
I am introduced to Baz, a six-year-old Czech Shepherd. He is classed as a general purpose dog, trained to search, track suspects and assist with public order. The first impression is one of strength and self-assurance yet he is calm and gentle when I reach to stroke him. He is big and beautiful with a thick sable coat, sturdy body and pricked ears.
Czech Shepherds, Anna explains, have a great working drive with a balance of prey and defence. Tasks include searching for property or people and he is totally focused on tracking. Verbal cues act as prompts to start tracking and Anna has become skilled in reading his body language as he moves forward purposefully in a search with his ears pricked and tail high. Baz will indicate a find either through barking or freezing so that the scene remains untouched and forensic contamination is avoided.
His prey drive means that he has been effectively trained to chase and, if necessary, detain a suspect through biting. His athletic strength, quick responses and sound temperament ensure that he works successfully but safely.
The defence drive enables Baz to help control crowds through barking and driving the crowd back. It also means that he will protect the handler.
Play at intervals throughout the day is part of the dogs’ ongoing training and now it is time for Anna’s other canny canine to join us. Crackers, a lively eight-year-old springer spaniel, emerges from the police van, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm. You could easily be forgiven for thinking he is aptly named but it soon becomes clear that he is alert and ready to channel his energies into focused work.
He has been trained to detect drugs, cash and guns, including component parts and ammunition. He is sociable, quick to learn and willing to obey. Six weeks of intensive training readied Crackers for operational work. He has been trained to use all of his senses but it is his Rolls Royce of a nose that enables him to discern individual scents even when masked by other odours. Crackers will indicate a find through barking and scratching.
It is as if both dogs are hard-wired to do the tasks allocated to them and that is the secret of success as both have been trained to channel their natural abilities into a specific structured role. Baz and Crackers thrive on purposeful work, structure and reward which might be in the form a toy, verbal or hand praise. The two dogs rarely work at the same scene but quickly fit into an operational team and will only receive instructions and rewards from the handler.
Lancashire Constabulary prides itself on its Dog Handling Unit and rightly so. It is the likes of Anna and her two dogs that put the rigorous training into practice and play such a valuable role in safeguarding society.