A Ministry of Defence Police dog and his handler have scooped a top award at their first attempt.
Jura the 3-year-old Belgian Shepard and his handler MOD Police Constable Simon Hill competed at the British Police and Services Canine Association Dog Trials at Newbold Revel, Rugby. Jura and Simon won the title of Service Dog of the year and came third in the criminal work section.
The dog trials cover numerous disciplines required by police and service dogs, this year’s trials was attended by dogs and handlers from many of the Home Office constabularies, the Prison Service, Army and RAF as well as the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP).
Simon said: “This was the first year that ether of us has competed and we weren’t sure what to expect. I had originally thought it would be a good training exercise for both of us. I’m really pleased that Jura came away with the title of Service Dog of the Year, he’s a great dog and loves to work and play.”
PC Hill has been Police Dog Jura’s handler since an eight-week-old puppy and both are based at the Ministry of Defence Police Dog section HM Naval Base Devonport. He said: “Jura is a confident and exuberant dog who is as happy playing ball as when he is working. He is a general purpose police dog who excels in the criminal work and as a dog team we have achieved the advanced level of licensing for the past two years. ‘’
They entered the South West regional Police Dog Trials in February and reached fourth with a score of 765 which was a record for an MDP officer. The qualifying mark of 700 was needed to achieve a place in the National Police Dog Trials and qualified as the first MDP dog team to reach the national final in South Wales where they finished mid table in the final with a score of over 600.
The criminal aspects focussed on dogs’ ability to chase and detain a ‘criminal’. The other aspects tested were obedience, which covered heelwork and general control, agility, which is the jumps, tunnels and weave poles. then property search where the dogs had five minutes to find four articles. Jura came fourth out of 20 entrants in the property search where the heat and sun made it especially difficult with any scent on the articles being quickly evaporated.
In the criminal work a ‘gunman’ fired a revolver and the dogs were asked to chase and hold the man until he dropped the weapon which the handler then had to secure and then call the dog off.
The final part of criminal work was the test of courage for the dog where the ‘criminal’ brandished a stick advanced loudly and threateningly towards the pair. The judges were looking for any hesitation in the dogs but Jura never flinched in his bite and hold.
The Service dog competition was also contested by teams from the Prison Service, The Home Office, civil police constabularies Army Veterinary Corps and RAF Police.
Jura has lived at home with Simon and his family near Plymouth and shares a birth date with his daughter. Simon trained Jura alongside his previous police dog Chaser and taught him the fundamentals of what would be needed to achieve before his initial police dog course where the skills were honed and polished at the course run by the MDP trainers at HMNB Devonport. Training is continuous and evolving.
Simon said: “A benefit of attending the trials is the opportunity to learn different techniques from other handlers representing other forces.’’
The champion pair carry out many duties, from general Plymouth Naval Base dockyard patrols to detached duties guarding various venues and helping the Home Office dog force in Devon and Cornwall on criminal policing work.
The MOD Police has a responsibility for the policing of the MOD estate. Its main roles are the protection of sites, people and equipment from terrorist attack, criminal activities and illegal trespass.
MOD Police dogs play a key role in carrying out these duties. Sites can cover large areas of land and MDP dogs can search the ground, locate intruders, or an injured or distressed person much faster than officers. Their keen sense of smell also means they can be trained to detect a whole range of illegal substances including drugs or explosives. In search operations it would require a number of officers to replace the specialist capabilities of one dog.