06 Jul 11

G4S Canine Security Services has opened the doors of its dedicated dog training academy to reveal how some of the UK’s most courageous canines – and their handlers – are instructed for duty. Brian Sims reports.

By Brian Sims

G4S Canine Security Services provides a full range of canine protection and detection services at high profile sites across the UK from its headquarters at Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire.

Instructors at the academy, which has been open for a year now, has trained more than 100 dogs and ensures they’re fully prepared to meet the needs of the company’s clients. It provides high quality kennels and training facilities for 40 dogs while they complete their training.

The G4S team at Luton Hoo includes explosives detection dog Buddy and his trainer Steve Gould, from Essex. Gould has served as a dog handler since 1990 and, with Buddy by his side, was one of the first professionals on site at King’s Cross in London following the 7/7 suicide bombings.

Indeed, in 2007 Gould and Buddy were part of the British Transport Police People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Gold medal-winning search team honoured at St James’s Palace for their work during this horrendous terrorism episode. The PDSA Gold Medal was first introduced in 2001, and is the human equivalent of the Dickin Medal.

Recognising acts of animal bravery

The PDSA Dickin Medal is an award designed to recognise acts of animal bravery and/or their exceptional devotion to duty. The Dickin Medal was first awarded over 60 years ago, and is now well recognised as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

The PDSA Gold Medal ‘Roll of Honour’ includes Ghillie, a two-year-old Springer Spaniel from Kirkwall, Orkney. The dog was presented with a PDSA Gold Medal on 20 December 2007 for saving the life of his owner’s elderly mother.

At a special ceremony at St James’s Palace in London on 3 July 2007, police explosives search dogs Vinnie, Billy and Jake were presented with their PDSA Gold Medals for their live-saving work following the terrorist attacks on London in July 2005.

On 5 April 2006, at the West Yorkshire Police Dog Training School in Wakefield, police dog Blue, police dog Zoltan and canine partner Orca were presented with their PDSA Gold Medals for animal bravery and devotion to duty.

This was followed by a presentation to Northern Ireland search and rescue dogs Dylan and Cracker at Belfast Castle on 27 June 2006.

On 22 July 2006, Royal Norwegian Navy mascot Bamse was recognised for his bravery and devotion to duty to the crew of the Thorodd during World War II. The presentation was held at the House of Dun in Montrose, Scotland.

Montrose can also boast a larger-than-life bronze of Bamse which was unveiled by HRH the Duke of York on 17 October 2006.

In November 2002, PDSA Gold Medals were awarded to three extraordinary dogs: canine partner Endal and police dogs Metpol Delta Monty and Bulla.

Challenging indoor and outdoor scenarios

At the G4S open day event, trainee search dogs were tasked to sniff out live explosives and drugs in a variety of challenging indoor and outdoor scenarios, ranging from bag searches and detecting explosives in sealed containers through to locating contraband hidden in a car.

The clever canines – which specialise either in narcotics searches, explosives searches or general purpose security tasks – impressed visitors (who included Bobby Logue from Interconnective) with a 100% detection rate.

Their reward? Being allowed to play with their favourite ball!

Speaking at the open day, John Whitwam – the managing director of G4S Canine Security Services – explained: “Our clients have a wide variety of requirements for our dog and handler teams, ranging from the deterrence of intruders and guarding premises through to specialist search tasks and securing high-risk areas from potential explosive threats.”

In truth, G4S Canine Security Services is one of the few UK security providers licensed to possess and use a range of live explosives and drugs in its dog training programmes. The dedicated canine training team always insists on the highest standards by way of ensuring that all dog/handler teams meet the criteria set out by the British Standards Institution.

In point of fact, the specialist dog handler teams of G4S Canine Services are trained and assessed to the industry-recognised BS 8157-1:2009 standard for general purpose patrol dogs while the detection dog handlers are trained and assessed to the BS 8157-2:2010 Code of Practice.

“Our dogs have consistently proven themselves to be better and more flexible at detection than mechanical and digital ‘sniffer’ technology,” continued Whitwam.

“They are flexible in the range and location of deployments they can handle and, of course, don’t need to be ‘cleared’ and recalibrated in order to detect a wide range of substances and still remain extremely accurate.”

As far as Whitwam’s concerned, when it comes to detection work “there really is no substitute for the ‘Mark 1 canine nose’!”

Highest standards of professionalism

G4S Canine Security Services employs some of the UK’s most experienced and flexible dog/handler teams and prides itself on exceptionally high standards of aptitude, professionalism and appearance in its dog teams.

G4S dogs/handlers are used to deter and prevent the smuggling of drugs or explosives at high profile events including festivals and at key venues around the country (among them ports, airports and prisons).

In conclusion, Whitwam told SMT Online: “It’s important that each of our dogs has only one master so that they have the strongest possible bond and an excellent working relationship. When our dogs retire they are almost always homed with their handler as pets – that’s how close the friendship between our dogs and handlers becomes.”

Find out more about Canine Security Services at www.g4s.com/uk (a dedicated link is provided at the foot of this page)

Click on images

  • The G4S Canine Security Services training team members

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  • Searching cars for explosives is a prime task facing G4S’ trained dogs

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  • The award-winning team of Steve Gould and his trusty dog Buddy

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  • John Whitwam: managing director of G4S Canine Security Services

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