Paul is a former police dog handler from the United Kingdom. At the age of 24 and with just under three years policing service Paul was one of the youngest, if not the youngest police dog handler in the UK. He was initially trained at a Home Office Police Dog Training Centre in the north east of England. It was here he met 2 dog handlers who would influence his approach to training police dogs, these handlers were renowned as being the best in the business, one was almost unbeatable in Police one day competitions involving Obedience and Criminal work. The other was of a similar standard but had the upper edge in tracking and searching, together they acted as his mentors over the whole of his service on the dog section.
Paul passed his initial course but unlike others then went right back to basics developing his program of training which would involve mapping out the dog’s development over a minimum 12 months. The three-month course was comprehensive but did not provide the true potential in getting the best out of the dog. The knowledge Paul gained resulted in him winning his Force Dog Trials the next year when the the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) ’Max’ was 2 years of age. He competed against other dogs and handlers with more service. Paul had been taught not to allow the dog to run before it could walk, using the little but often approach to each exercise. This was a slower process but ensured the dog fully understood what was expected of him. Paul went on to win this competition a further time with Max and three times with his replacement Police Dog Luke. Luke worked until he was ten years of age. Luke was a dynamic intelligent dog which Paul found difficult to replace. He was an exceptional operational dog and an outstanding competition dog, he won at least one of the best annual test categories in obedience, criminal work, tracking or searching during his service. He won several one day police dog competitions throughout the UK.
Over the years Paul and his Police Dogs competed against his mentor’s numerous times. The proudest day of his dog section career involved one such day when he was told that they had just witnessed one of the best rounds of obedience and criminal work they had ever seen. They were also competing and at last the student had beaten his mentors. When competing at Regional Police Dog Trials Luke was an outstanding dog in grass and hard surface tracking and an exceptional search dog in the open and closed quarter and search areas. The two GSD’s were also trained to detect illicit drugs (known as Dual Purpose Dogs) during their service. Paul also simultaneously handled two Springer Spaniel Specialist Drug Dogs, solely used to detect illicit substances. During his time handling drug detection dogs Paul and his dogs recovered in excess of one million pounds (just under 2 million dollars) worth of illicit drugs, predominantly heroin and cocaine.
Paul and his Springer Spaniel ‘Buster’ were so highly regarded with experience and skill that they used to demonstrate and assist in the training of Columbian Military Personnel attending a drug dog detection course in the UK in the late 1980’s. Paul and his dogs searched all manner of airborne and seagoing vessels as well as road vehicles, factories and dwellings. Paul and his GSD’s were a very successful operational team involved in numerous police operations. It was a weekly duty to patrol at football matches which were usually the scene of violent conflicts.
Paul and his GSD were also involved in 2 major national man-hunts for persons responsible for the murder of police officers culminating in a shoot-out with police. During this time, the use of police dogs at firearms incidents had not fully integrated with specialist firearms teams. Paul was one of the first to work closely with specialist firearms officers to search vast rural areas and dense forests. They were also one of the first to be used in building clearance for specialist firearms entry teams. They have also participated in three national anti-terrorism training exercises involving special forces working in conjunction with police specialist firearms teams.
Paul loved his various operational duties with his police dogs but admits his greatest satisfaction and pleasure came from training his GSD’s for police competitions. Paul had an exceptional relationship with his police dogs and was recognised by his peers as an outstanding handler. Paul handled police dogs for almost half of his thirty years police service, this has given him a vast array of dog handling skills and an understanding of what motivates a dog to do a certain thing, be it a good or bad behavioural trait. Paul has been involved in training literally hundreds of police dogs, he has viewed and assessed many hundreds of dogs to ascertain their suitability for police work. Paul estimates 1 in 50 may have proven suitable for police work during his service. The process involved the examination of the animal’s temperament, intelligence, physical skills, use of its senses and most importantly its drive to retrieve. Most training exercises involve a reward and the retrieve element supports this drive. The police service did not use a food based reward system unless it was the only way to initiate the drive, this would be replaced as soon as possible. The dog in these circumstances would have to have some other exceptional qualities to even take this step. Paul was involved in puppy selection and on a number of occasions developed a young dog’s basic skills involving obedience, nose work, retrieve and drive to be handed onto another handler.
Most dog breeds have a purpose in life, at one stage they were used to assist humans, this is an area Paul has found to be so intriguing. The selection of a pet which ends up being too big too active, too self-driven can at times be an unwanted trait to a household but could be just what a service dog is all about.
Paul has viewed and assessed numerous breeds of dogs for use in general purpose police work and those needed for drug and explosive detection. The key to identifying a dog’s suitability is to recognise its immediate willingness to retrieve and hunt for an object such as a ball…the secret behind a good dog… no more no less. This is also an important factor when binding the relationship with a pet. Teaching a pet to search and retrieve stimulates the dog’s senses and helps it fulfil a role in life as well assisting in mentally and physically tiring the animal… plus it’s fun and that is what dog training is all about! Paul has throughout his time used reward based training, it’s a sound principle but he also knows one method is not necessarily right for certain dogs. If he has learned one thing on his journey it is a fact that ‘you CAN teach an old dog new tricks’ - as long as you know what you are doing!