A new training course for dogs, which will work across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, starts in Kempston tomorrow.
The six-week course will see six dogs and their handlers undergo training that aims to develop them as proactive drug dog teams.
The dogs enrolled on the course are labradors and spaniels, aged between 12 months and two years old and come from a variety of backgrounds. Three come from rescue centres, two were purchased from specialist breeders and one was donated to the unit by a member of the public.
All the dogs have already spent a number of weeks living with, and getting to know, their handlers. Over the next few weeks their relationship will strengthen as they face a number of exercises together on the course.
From week one, the dogs will be trained to put their noses to excellent use. Training includes such tasks as detecting small quantities of concealed drugs in complicated search areas, including houses and vehicles where it is possible to secrete items in a variety of places.
The immediate reward for the dogs will be a toy of their choice but, if all goes well and the dogs and handlers pass their course, they will work across the three counties as part of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire (BCH) Dog Unit, where an enormously fulfilling and varied career awaits them.
PC Jason Keir is an instructor with the BCH Dog Unit who has been a police officer for over 22 years and a dog handler for the last 14. He and colleagues in the training team will be leading the course.
PC Keir said: “If the dogs and handlers successfully complete this course they will work across the three forces where they’ll be able to assist at a variety of incidents. Tasks that might take an officer a number of hours to complete, such as a searching a house, can be quickly and thoroughly completed with a dog due to the high level of training they receive.
“For the dogs this doesn’t really seem like work at all, more of an extension of a favourite game, but for us their amazing abilities are essential to our work, so we ensure the dogs are kept stimulated and place their welfare as our highest priority.
“As part of this, throughout their careers with the BCH Dog Unit, the dogs and their handlers will be regularly assessed. Not only does this ensure they’re keeping to the highest standard of training, it also makes sure the dogs are in peak physical fitness and health. Any issues found can then be immediately addressed.”