Dog Days: Heroic hounds at TRNSMT Festival and regional trials

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This week at the TRNSMT festival, our hard working Police Dogs were on hand to help sniff out danger and drugs and help keep the public safe and happy.  

The pooches of Police Scotland and their handlers will be on hand at several festivals during the summer season, and  Inspector Carol Adamson of the Dog Unit said, "The dogs are deployed in scanning teams at the entrances to the festivals, and check the people coming in. If the dogs give an indication signal, the officers are given the power to search the individual, which is a condition of entry the festival goers agree to when buying their ticket."

"At the TRNSMT Festival, our dogs were successful with several detections, and lots of drugs were discarded. We were a bit hampered because of the hot weather which meant the dogs had to take frequent breaks and were working in shifts, with two or three of them on duty at a time and then swapping. One of our officers actually bought a kid's paddling pool on the way to the festival, so that helped keep them cool!"

While the sniffer dogs play a vital role in Police Scotland's ranks, (and you can check out our Featured Article on their training methods), they are only half of our four footed, furry division. When it comes to chasing down, controlling and restraining suspects, the German Shepherds and Malinois of the General Purpose section are the dogs for the job. Earlier this year, we visited the 52nd Scottish Regional Police Dog Trials at Perth Racecourse to see the all-action hounds put through their paces in a competition setting, and to speak to some of the handlers and organisers.

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Chief Inspector Craig Richie

"I’ve got responsibility for the dog unit, based in the west, but I have portfolio responsibility for all the dogs across the country. So obviously I’ve a keen interest in what’s happening today, and am here to give support. Some of my own staff are here today, so it’s nice to see them and have a chat with them.

"I know the work and effort that’s gone into arranging the day, but also for the dogs that are here, so it’s a really good thing for them all to be involved in and a great reward for all their hard work. I was never a dog handler myself, as I wouldn’t have the skill to do what they do! The effort the guys put in is absolutely fantastic, and the dogs are so well trained and really really goo d at what they do, so it’s good to see it in action.

"This is the third day of the trials and it’s almost impossible to pick a potential winner as it’s so closely contested as you can see, so I’m sure it’ll be a close decision at the end. We’ll see how it goes."

Dog trials 1Inspector Calum Wells

"I’m in charge of the police dog unit and operational support division for the north and east. This is a culmination of all the training the handlers have done, and it’s directly related yto their operational environment, the exercises they do typify the type of jobs they do and incidents they deal with, so this is just to show the sort of obedience and training that goes into it.

"It’s also a sort of friendly competitive environment as they get scored for the behaviour of the dogs, the way they perform, and then they collate the various points for all the handlers. Once the champion is decided, they’ll then go on to represent Police Scotland at the national championships, which is being held in south Wales this year."

(Interview paused as on the competition grounds, a heavily padded man emerges from a trailer, shouting aggressively and swinging a large stick. The current competitor dog, acting on a command from his handler, immediately sprints over and clamps his jaws on the man’s arm.)

"So what they’re doing there is actually a simulation of a criminal with a weapon, so they get the dog to go and disarm that person. One of the key points here is that once the handler gives the command, the dog will let the sleeve go, and that’s a critical point, that the handler keeps the dog under control at all times".

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PC Heather Porter – Dog Handler, West division

"I’m competing today, with my dog Nova. She’s two years old and this is her first time competing. I’ve been in the dog branch since August but a police officer for eleven years. Nova came over from Holland in August and I got licensed last October to work with her".

PC Tony Peskett – Dog Handler, North Division

"Based out of the dog section in Aberdeen, and competing here today with my dog Eden. We’re just about to do the phase three section, which is all the heelwork and obedience tasks. I’m a little bit nervous, but it’s all to be expected. This is our third time competing, so we’re just trying to improve on last year’s performance."

PC Alan Tennant – Operation Support

"I’ve been with the dog unit for twenty five years. My job yesterday was putting items out for the property search test and doing a standoff, so when the dog’s finished its track, we replicate someone running away and then standing still. The dog then is meant to come up to me, barking and holding with no contact, so no biting, which 95% of them did!

"Today I’m on stick attack duty. There are three 'bite' disciplines we’re doing today, which are the straight chase, where the dog goes after someone running away, the stick attack, where someone comes at them with a stick, and the gun attack, which is self explanatory, and gets the dogs used to loud noises."

At the end of the day, PC Magnus McGarry with PD Gray, a four-year-old Dutch Herder/Malinios cross, and PC Andy Gamble with PD Duke, a four-year old German Shepherd, came away with the top prizes of the competition. As if this weren't enough, both Gray and Duke were later further honoured by winning the National trials in May.