Our latest canine crimefighter is now on duty. Meet PD Bobby, and his handler PC Ben Brittain...
When did you join North Yorkshire Police, and how long as you been on the Dog Support Unit?
I joined North Yorkshire Police in 2007 as a PCSO based at Skipton. In 2013, I progressed onto being a response officer based at Scarborough and more recently Skipton. I joined the Dog Support Unit in March 2018. This was always my dream job – I joined the police knowing that one day I wanted to be a dog handler.
How long have you been partnered up with PD Bobby?
He was purchased by the force at the start of this year, and I have been partnered with Bobby since joining the unit in March.
How long did it take to train him up, and how did it feel when he received his licence?
We work and train as a team, and the initial general purpose dog course was 13 weeks from start to finish. It was an amazing feeling when he received his licence. All the hours of bonding and training comes down to one day. It was a huge relief – but I had every confidence in him
Is he your first dog?
I am his first handler, and he is my first police dog – I own a female Springer Spaniel, Bella, outside of the police.
How did you pick his name?
Bobby was already named when the force bought him at a year old. I liked the name and found it quite fitting with the old nickname for a police officer being a ‘Bobby’.
How old is Bobby?
He is still only a year old – he’ll be two on 25 January.
What breed is he?
A Dutch Herder, one of only two Herders in the force at this time.
What does he specialise in?
Bobby is a general purpose police dog. He is trained in:
- Tracking – depending on conditions, Bobby would be expected to be able to track a person up to hour after they took that route.
- Property – he is trained to locate and indicate on discarded property that has been touched with human scent.
- Criminal work – this consists of several areas, with safety being the key focus.
- Obedience – we also focus a lot of training on obedience which consists of heelwork; the sit, stay and down commands and send-aways.
Describe Bobby’s character in three words.
Fun, lively and loyal. He is a fun dog, and very eager to please!
What was your first day like, and what jobs did you get called out to?
The first day out with Bobby was really good. I came on duty at Skipton and discovered that the night shift had tirelessly tried to break up an illegal rave with over 200 attendees affected by drink or drugs. I made to the area with the small number of day-shift response colleagues. The rave was still in full swing. I brought Bobby out of the vehicle as a visible presence while the duty sergeant again requested the music to be turned off and the rave shut down. The presence of the dog barking had an instant effect. The music was turned off straight away and the group dispersed.
What is your proudest moment you’ve worked together on so far?
An organised crime group who had targeted numerous phone shops in the North of England had smashed their way into a shop in the centre of Harrogate in the early hours of the morning. They had stolen a quantity of display phones and tablets, and made off in a vehicle. The vehicle was sighted by police on the A61 towards Harewood. The offenders decamped from the vehicle and made off across fields. Bobby was deployed and indicated on several items of property lost by the offenders, including a shoe, a woolly hat, two of the stolen phones and a stolen tablet, all of which were discarded in extremely thick undergrowth. To top the job off, Bobby persisted in his search through thick brambles and bracken, and found one of the suspects hiding. The rest of the suspects were later found walking on the main road towards Leeds. All in all, it was a great job for such a young dog.
Has there ever been a situation where you were really grateful to have him with you?
On most shifts I will attend an incident of some kind where I am extremely grateful to have him with me. His presence seems to have an instant effect on most people’s behaviour.
What is Bobby’s favourite thing to do at work?
When we are training, Bobby loves the criminal aspect of training. I can tell by his demeanour that he is in his element when chasing and detaining the ‘criminal’ helpers.
And outside work?
At home he literally follows me everywhere. He loves a good walk and lives for his tennis ball. He is quite cheeky and takes every opportunity to sneak into the house and get comfy in front of the log burner.
What is his favourite toy?
Tennis balls… he can’t get enough of them! I have bought him other toys in the time I have had him, but he really isn’t interested in them. His face lights up when a tennis ball is brought out.
What do you love most about him?
Most certainly his personality – he has a real character about him. He is extremely playful and daft with those who know him.
Tell us something that most people don’t realise about police dogs and their handlers.
The dogs live with us at our home addresses in kennels. Although this is great for building a bond with the dogs, it can be challenging at times. For example, you need to plan your social life in advance, around the needs of the dog. They generally can’t be walked off the lead in public places such as the local park, so you spend a lot of time trying to find new isolated places to give him a good run out.
Anything else you would like people to know about him?
What a lot of people don’t see is that police dogs have an affectionate, loving side to them. This is generally when they are in the company of their handlers and our families. I wouldn’t recommend anybody who doesn’t know him well to attempt to stroke him though. At home, Bobby is a big soft lump and a great pet. At work he is a criminal’s worst nightmare!
What’s next for you and Bobby?
At some point in the next year, I expect to be allocated a second dog. This will be a smaller breed specialist dog, most likely to be trained in finding drugs or explosives. Although I absolutely love my day-to-day job with Bobby, a second dog will certainly give me a new challenge and another way to combat crime in our area.
Get more canine content from your favourite North Yorkshire Police dogs by tuning in to Dog Detectives, every Monday from 5 November 2018 at 8pm via the QuestOD app or on channel Quest Red (Freeview 38, Freesat 169, Sky 149, Virgin 215 and BT TV 38).