A Day in the Life: Dog Unit
We recently spent a day in the life of the Police Dog Unit in Glasgow's Pollok Park with Constables Kimberley Hill and Phil Farndell to learn a bit more about the role of dog handlers within Police Scotland.
The day starts early for our officers as the dogs must be fed at 5am to get them ready for the start of their shift at 11am. The dogs must be fed early enough to allow time for their food to go through the system properly.
The dogs can be involved in strenuous activity so it is important that they are well prepared. Not allowing sufficient time for the dogs to digest their food can later lead to health complications if they are involved in activity too soon after.
Being a police dog handler is more than just a job, it's a vocation for life and a partnership between dog and handler that lasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Dogs live with the officers at home, and officers generally have 2 dogs but some live with up to 4 dogs at a time which typically is a general purpose dog; usually a German Shepherd, a specialist "sniffer" dog; usually a spaniel, a puppy in training either to be a general purpose dog or a sniffer dog and a retired dog. It's the dog handlers responsibility to look after their dogs and make sure they are disciplined in their duty and in peak physical condition.
The duties of a general purpose dog can be looking for missing persons, searching for weapons and other evidence and looking for individuals who may be evading the police.
If a divisional officer requires assistance from a dog handler, it may be to assist at a serious incident such as an assault with a weapon or an attempted murder which can allow the dog to be treated as a level of force more serious than CS/PAVA spray and less serious than a firearms officer.
Dog handlers can also be required to deal with dangerous dogs which requires the use of some specialist equipment including snitchers and electric shields.
The duties of a specialist dog such as an explosives dog would be tasked with ensuring safety at royal visits, VIP visits, search work, bomb threats or any other work that may require the use of the specialist dog.
Some dogs have different specialist skills including being able to detect drugs, money, firearms, human remains and blood. All of these specialities require extensive training to ensure the dog is capable of successful detection.
Any officer can apply to be a dog handler after their probationary period. The process for applying to the dog unit involves an interview and an assessment week which is very physical and there's also an exam at the end of it. Officers will learn about the specialist equipment that is used including bite bars, bite sleeves and bite jackets.
Being a dog handler is a unique job unlike any other within Police Scotland. It's a a very challenging and demanding task that involves a lot of work in your homelife with the dogs but it's also a very rewarding role that starts with training a puppy and sharing your experiences with the dog for most of their working life.
Follow @polscotdogs on twitter for more information on the Police Scotland Dog Unit.
The above video was produced in partnership with Young Scot and Youth Link Scotland.