Dogs in-training will leave their foster families with Tasmania Police today and embark on training as future general purpose police and service dogs following a Victoria Police initiated pilot program.
Four puppies were fostered to Tasmanian homes for 12 months as part of a pilot puppy development program designed to raise future police dogs.
“Last year Tasmania Police and Victoria Police developed a pilot program to foster and train the Tasmanian-bred German Shepherd puppies before they would potentially commence training as general purpose police dogs,” said Sergeant Iain Shepherd from the Tasmania Police Dog Handlers Unit.
“Victoria Police took one puppy, Ralph, directly into their development program. Three further puppies were fostered by officers from Tasmania Police and have successfully learnt obedience and how to track, search, and bite and release on command.
“Despite the serious nature of their training over the last 12 months, the dogs have retained their wonderful sociable nature and still love a pat. Service dogs are required to be extremely stable and comfortable in all environmental conditions.”
Foster parents of the puppies were Sergeant Iain Shepherd who fostered Raffa, Senior Constable Josh Tringrove who fostered Rico (re-named Baloo), and Senior Constable Alison Kay who fostered Rocket.
Guiding the foster parents and puppies through the skill development process was Tasmanian expert dog trainer and ex-military dog handler Ben Barnes working for local breeders Garsova Kennels, who fostered Reba (re-named Quake).
“It was an exciting and rewarding opportunity to be involved in this amazing pilot program,” said Sergeant Shepherd.
“On average only around one in 10 puppies make it through to becoming a police or service dog so to have all four of the puppies fostered in Tasmania make it through to start training is a great success.
“It was also a fantastic opportunity for Tasmania Police to share dog handling skills and capability with Victoria Police. The program generated enormous interest with agencies including New Zealand Police, Northern Territory Police and Queensland Corrections Service who all expressing interest in the pups.
“On behalf of my fellow foster parents to the puppies, we wish the dogs every success and will miss their bounding paws,” said Sergeant Shepherd.
The dogs will soon begin training, two in the Northern Territory where the police dog program is run by New Zealand Police and two at Queensland Corrections Service.