On Saturday 15th September PC Duncan Gray and PC Richard Vinen have embarked on an exciting new phase in their careers as they become the States of Jersey Police's newest dog handlers.
Both officers will be paired with a General Purpose Dog (GPD) during their 13-week training course. Here is their diary of how things are progressing.
Saturday 15th September - Richard Vinen
It's 11:30pm on Saturday 15th and we're finally on our way.
We're currently on the boat heading for the UK with a fully loaded car which looks like we're moving house.
We won't arrive until about 3:30am and then we have to drive to Surrey where we start training, we should arrive in Surrey arund 5am tomorrow morning.
I have left Jersey with the new kennel at home built but Duncan's kennel is still in bits.
We are getting excited now about meeting the dogs.
Monday 17th September - Duncan Gray
Met the kids yesterday. They are stunning.
They were awake at 5am this morning and raring to go. Only 3 hours till we're officially introduced!
Tuesday 18th September - Richard Vinen
We have had a very good first two days. Duncan had been allocated Djaego - who he has now renamed Jake - and I have Chilli, who is being renamed Achilles. It is not a problem to rename the dogs as with such intensive training they will learn their new names very quickly.
Both are very good tempered dogs and have worked well so far however it's still very early stages so to early to say how they'll turn out.
Already we have covered a one leg track, some building search work and bark work, so very busy but enjoyable.
Pictured - Achilles in training
Wednesday September 19th - Duncan Gray
Ok nearly end of week one. Jake and Achilles are amazing. Very intelligent and full of energy. This week we have started tracking, building searches, obedience work and bite work. The tracking is very challenging but brilliant fun.
The building searches are a bit daunting due to the vast area to cover but so far it's gone really well.
We're all shattered at the end of the day but it's a brilliant course.
Every day we are seeing improvements in both the dogs - and ourselves - which is building all our confidences.
There is a huge amount to take in every day but we're all settling into it well.
Fingers crossed that all continues to improve and that we succesfully complete the course.
Pictured - Richard and Achilles in action
Tuesday September 25th - Duncan Gray
Jake is brilliant, I have definitely fallen on my feet with him.
Today is more tracking and it is going really well although the weather is not being too kind and it is raining off and on.
Jake is really good at tracking. On our 5th day of tracking were already doing "open box" and cross wind legs and turns. We haven't done so much bite work yet but he is learning to play with the "ragger" toy so I'm confident he will progress well.
Achilles struggled a bit to start with on the tracking however it looks like it is starting to click into place. So far he is excelling on the bite work. They said when we started that some dogs will pick up some things easier than others.
We are both loving it though!
Pictured - Duncan and Jake pose for the camera
Duncan & Jake, Richie & Achilles - September 30th
Sorry for the delay it has been another busy week.
The main focus has been on tracking.
We are doing a variety of different tracks again, using different weather conditions and different surfaces.
This helps for the future with tracking offenders who have committed offences or searching for missing persons.
We're all finding the course very tiring mentally and physically but the effort will definitely be worth it.
Both dogs are doing well and we are improving daily.
Jake is showing his forte to be tracking at the moment whereas Achilles is excelling at detaining offenders.
Duncan & Jake, Richie & Achilles - October 4th
Hardest week yet, changeable weather is making training very challenging. Our instructors have been helping to fine tune what we have learned so far.
The tracking has become much more challenging and we are all feeling the pressure, dogs and handlers alike.
We have had a few guests with us this week seeing what do. This has added to the pressure.
Were moving on to practical tracks where the aim is to track and detain the offender. This is very exciting for the dogs as they get to "PLAY" with the offender at the end of the track.
The course seems to be flying by but we still have so much to learn in the remaining time. It is definitely an emotional rollercoaster.
Pictured - Top - Richie and Achilles, Below - Duncan and Jake training
October 22nd - Richard Vinen and Achilles
It has been a very intense and tiring couple of weeks for myself and Achilles. We have covered a wide range of skills and exercises, but have been focusing mainly on tracking.
Achilles is not a natural tracker and I have had to adjust my handling of him to suit. We have made significant progress in tracking now and at the end of week 5 completed our first team track, which is all four handlers out with their dogs tracking a suspect through a dense forest area, during a team track everyone takes turns at the front tracking the suspect with the others following along behind.
We covered several miles and were out tracking for nearly 2 hours, at the end dogs and handlers were a little worn out as the dogs become highly motivated and driven during the track and at points are hard work to hang on to!
We have also covered the following areas obedience work, open country search, building search, suspicion work, bite work, gun attack, stick attack, re-calls, stand offs and most recently we have begun property search and indication.
As you can see we are extremely busy and there is much more to cover with only 8 weeks left on the course. The dogs are learning very quickly as are we. Achilles really enjoys his bite work and is very quick to close the distance between handler and suspect, he hits hard and fast and will only get stronger as time passes and his confidence grows.
This is a very busy course with a total of 9 handlers and 2 instructors. The course is made up of 2 Jersey officers, 3 Sussex officers and 4 Surrey officers. We're all getting on really well and everyone is helpful and supportive towards each other.
All the dogs and handlers have undergone their 4 week assessment run by the Schools manager. This went well and handlers and dogs are where they should be at this point of the course.
October 22nd - Duncan Gray and Jake
The past couple of weeks have been very intense. We've had our week 4 assessment which we all passed, so good news there.
The instructors are now starting to fine tune our training in order to help us develop into an efficient effective team. The bond between the dogs and ourselves is vitally important in this process, so we are putting in as much time as possible.
At the end of last week our team completed a two hour team track through woodland areas. This was a hugely rewarding exercise for all four dog teams. Needless to say dogs and handlers were glad to end the exercise for a breather. Eight offenders were detained during this exercise, including Jake's second one which we located up a tree!
For the record, the tree was not harmed as part of this exercise!
Jake and I have been working on our obedience work and we are now doing this off lead with other dogs and people around for distraction.
Looking forward to coming home for a brief visit this weekend and seeing family. Without their support this course would be much harder.
Richard Vinen and Achilles - Weeks 6 and 7.
It's been a very busy couple of weeks for all of the dogs and handlers. The instructors are pushing harder the closer we get to licensing and the days are packed full of varying exercises and various locations. We have again been working on tracking but the last couple of weeks we have been doing practical tracks over differing surfaces and we have also completed another team track which was extremely tiring but excellent training. We have also done our first sets of night tracks using a near by village as a training area.
Apart from tracking we have also continued our bite working and are working on recalls and recalls from bites. This type of work is to train our control over the dog to make sure they are under control at all times and can be called away from a subject on command.
Heel work is continuing and is improving with every session as the dogs are becoming more responsive to us. Building search is also proving to be a great game for the dogs as we are now doing it in the dark with a hidden subject - all the dogs love this type of training and are all doing very well at it.
Myself and Achilles have had a very good couple of weeks and Achilles is improving and growing in confidence day by day but there is still plenty of hard work to do before we license. This is a very tough course but very enjoyable.
Licensing is now only five weeks away and fingers crossed we'll be back in Jersey and operational by the end of December.
Duncan Gray and Jake - End of Week 7
End of week seven. Tracking is still a huge part of the training and we are tracking over a wide variety of surfaces and over longer distances, which is helping to increase the dog teams experience and stamina.
We have been gradually moving onto hard surfaces ie roads, pavements and today Jake and I completed a long track solely on tarmac. Jake tracks slightly differently on the hard surface so I have been learning to read him on these surfaces.
This week we completed another team track through a large wooded area. This covered approximately 4 1/2 miles.
There was a military training exercise taking place in the same area, fortunately the explosions and gunfire did not distract the dogs and between the four dog teams we located eight criminals.
We are all continuing to fine tune our skills and working more effectively with our dogs, and this improves daily.
Jake enjoying a day off!
Richard Vinen and Achilles - Weeks 8 and 9.
The pressure has really been applied in the last two weeks to the handlers as well as the dogs. Licensing is only two weeks away and we still have a great deal to do.
The last two weeks we have continued development of tracking moving to multi-surface pattern tracks with a criminal at the end for the dogs to bark at or if they run to bite. This monday we carried out a night time team track and located and detained six criminals, all the dogs performed brilliantly.
All other areas are developing really well and the dogs are growing in confidence and becoming more independent every day. We also covered weapon attack and attack on handler this week which ended with Achilles carrying out one of his strongest bites yet.
Open searching in woodland was also interesting this week as we tested the dogs with criminals hidden at height and lying down under bushes etc and it doesn't matter where you are the dogs will eventually find you.
We are now into our last 4 weeks and will be moving on to more formal work for the next two weeks in preparation for licensing.
Following a tough week Jake has had to be retired from the Dog Handling Course due to a medical matter.
Jake had a small injury last week and after tests and after solving the one problem it was found Jake had a problem with his lower back.
Now this won't mean anything for Jake having a long and happy life it just means he is not quite right to be a police dog.
The plan now is for Jake to become someone's pet and Duncan will return to the course in January to be paired with a new dog.
Richard and Achilles - November 29th
Very sad start to the week where we lost Jake due to injury which meant we also lost Duncan. Happily Duncan will be back on the January course with a new dog.
This week we started with more tracking over mud covered fields in quite bad weather which all the dogs coped with very well.
We have also introduced property on track which the dogs need to indicate on.
Everything is progressing really well but it would take up pages if I tried to explain about everything we have done and every where we have been, its enough to say that we and the dogs are all working very hard to reach the required level for licensing.
Achilles is turning into a very strong and confident dog which is making him a fantastic police dog, not bad at all for a gift dog from Battersea dogs home!
Week 11 - Richard Vinen
It's been a more relaxed week as the instructors want all dogs and handlers to unwind prior to licensing.
We've still covered quite a bit but mainly fine tuning different areas for different dogs. We had a run through of criminal work, obedience and agility at the end of the week to give us an idea of what to expect next week.
Happily Achilles performed really well in all areas and he is ready as we can make him. Still even after the end of course our instructors have told us there will be plenty of work to do when we get back to our forces to develop the dogs to a higher standard.
With that in mind I'll be looking for any empty buildings and land to train tracking and searching on, so if anyone knows of any areas or buildings that we could use please get in touch with the dog section!
Next week is licensing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday is family day which we are going to be on display in a mini trials event.
I have been told that eight guesst are coming from Battersea dogs home to see how far Achilles has come in 12 weeks. Fingers crossed it all goes to plan!