What the canines are up to at Lancashire Police Dog Unit - WITH VIDEO
Even on his day off, Ruskin was busy helping to solve crimes in Lancashire.
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The German Shepherd was enjoying a walk and run around in Preston when he sniffed out some items stolen from an ambulance.
Ruskin is just one of 27 specially trained canines at the Lancashire Police Dog Unit.
They are used to sniff out drugs, explosives, weapons and bodies, as well as chase and detain criminals.
But when they are not out in the field or resting at home with their handlers, they are in the capable hands of the kennel staff who have an inside knowledge of each and every dog, from their likes and dislikes to their stubborn ways.
Kelly Nix, animal and dog liaison officer, says: “We look after the welfare of the dogs. Without us there would be no dogs.“The dogs are looked after and stay at their handler’s home but we board them when their handlers are away.“We walk and exercise them; groom them; feed them and take them to the vets if they are ill. We are responsible for worming, flea treatment“We also go searching for new dogs via adverts on social media, the RSPCA and the Dog’s Trust. We speak to a lot of rescue centres. We can spot the potential in the type of dogs we can train.“The first thing we look for when assessing their suitability is seeing how friendly and approachable they are. “They have an 28-day initial assessment. We assess them in their home environment to see how much they love a tennis ball. Then we teach them to search for it.“Once they can do that, the instructors take over the training. They replace the ball with drugs and the dogs soon learn to associate the smell and find them.”
General purpose dogs undergo 13 weeks of training which involves them being able to chase people, act as a defence tool or crowd control.Specialist dogs are given six weeks training in searching for drugs, weapons, cash or explosives. Dogs are also used for victim recovery at a crime scene.
Kelly adds: “We tend to pick the right dogs from the start so we have a 90 per cent pass rate.“I remember a dog called Butch who failed and he came back again a few months later, with a new name – Crackers.“I knew it was the same dog – but he passed this time.“We train dogs to search for people and property taken from a break-in as they track human scent.“They can also chase and detain people. The dogs are trained to bite the right arm, based on the theory most people are right-handed. “Firearms support dogs wear cameras on their bodies and enable an officer to stand outside and watch on screen to assess a dangerous situation so they can see what they are faced with.“Specialist dogs can search for blood and semen and any other bodily fluids from crime scenes.“They can find a spot of blood in a puddle.“During an exercise a dog indicated to a wall where we had sprayed blood a year ago. They are very clever.“They are very good at sniffing out and detecting things an officer would not be able to. For example, a dog has found explosives in a Lynx deodorant can.“They can search a room much faster than a police officer can by hand.“A few years ago two dogs uncovered a body which had been dug underground in Clitheroe. It would take too many officers and much time to dig a grave, so we took one of the dogs. As he was getting tired, another dog took over to give him a break. They were so fast at boring holes in the soil.”
The dogs have also some minor mishaps on their sprees.Kelly recalls: “We once had a dog who decided to go for a bath in a green vat of something. We were left with a luminous green dog so it had to be cleaned and clipped.“Some dogs have run through doors and broken their own teeth, which is unpleasant.“They are very driven with they are searching, so they will fight through their pain barrier.”
Working so closely with the dogs, Kelly and her team know each of their quirks, traits and cheeky temperaments.Kelly says: “I know all of these dogs by heart. They all have their own personality.“They are always confident and bolshy, but never dangerous. Their handlers have full control of them.“Every single spaniel is bonkers.“Malinor dogs are more hyper than the German shepherds.“Ricoh and Frankie are the most affectionate; Ron is the grumpiest and growls at you, especially when you brush him.“Sharky is the gobbiest as he is so loud - you can hear him coming a mile off. He is starting to slow down a bit now, as he is eight and ready to retire.“Once they retire, dogs remain with their handlers.”
The dogs now have a following as they have their own Facebook and Twitter account.Kelly adds: “We post pictures of dogs on jobs. These jobs are a bit older and we put more detail on. The Twitter account is controlled by each handler.“It is a snapshot of real life jobs as they happen.“It is a fantastic way of engaging with the public. Everybody loves the pictures of dogs and love reading the stories of what they do.”
Kelly is joined by fellow kennel staff Laura Redman and Paul Biscomb.
Laura adds: “The best thing about coming to work is seeing the days. You know you will have a stress-free day as you get to play with the dogs.“It is not very glamorous as you end up covered in mud when the dogs bounce all over you.“It is also exciting getting to see the new dogs and getting to know them.”