In the past, we’ve spoken a little about what the BlueSKY team gets up to when we’re not advising clients.
In the first of a series focusing on our team, meet Liz, our Head of Finance. Liz manages all the company’s finances, preparing the company annual budgets and managing the regular FCA financial and business reporting requirements.
However, when not preparing our accounts or paying our taxes – a pretty important job! – Liz works with Thames Valley police to train and socialise potential police dogs.
Being approved as a puppy trainer
“Around five years ago, my husband and I got talking to a lady who had a police dog and so we decided to look into the scheme,” Liz says. “Our local constabulary, Thames Valley police, run an open day once a year and so we went along, asked a few questions and ended up putting our name forward.
“Once we had been accepted and been through the police vetting procedure and home checks, we got our first puppy, and haven’t looked back since!”
Socialising and training future police dogs
So, what does the training entail?
“We get the dogs at around eight or nine weeks old, and our job is to make them environmentally sound and to socialise them.
“As well as teaching them basic obedience, we have to take them anywhere and everywhere to get them used to different environments. We take them on buses and trains, to shops and parks – and the hardest work of all – taking them to pubs!
“We get the dogs used to people, locations and to different noises and sounds. We also have to get them used to different types of flooring, from slippery tiles, wood and carpet to metal so they are always confident in any environment.
“As a trainer, you are provided with a book of actions you have to tick off – this means we can monitor the training and make sure we have done all the things that are required.”
Zeva the German Shepherd
Liz has been training police puppies since 2015, and recently took on her fourth dog Zeva (the Hebrew word for ‘wolf’) who is a four-month-old German Shepherd pup.
“She was a little stressed when she first arrived, but she is really settling in now,” Liz adds. “The puppies come from specific breeders, and our role is to socialise them and keep them for around a year, depending on factors such as their age and licensing requirements.
“Over the course of their time with us, we teach them basic obedience and get them socialised before they go on a formal course with the Thames Valley and Hampshire Police Joint Operations Unit – Dog Section, to meet their new handler and hopefully get fully licenced for life on the road protecting the public.
“Once paired with a handler, the new partners undertake a 12-week course where they learn to be a general-purpose police dog, learning skills such as tracking and crowd control.”
The dogs are also trained in the skill of ‘article indication’. Here the dog learns how to find an individual article – perhaps a stolen item or a discarded knife – by scent. Then, when they find the article, they know how to indicate its location without touching it, so as not to cross-contaminate potentially important evidence.
Becoming a licenced police dog
Having taken a six-month break between dogs this time, Liz is looking forward to her next year with Zeva. But what happens when the dogs move on and join the police?
“It is difficult to hand the dogs over as they have become part of the family, and there have certainly been some tears! However, all three of our puppies have gone on to become licenced police dogs, and so the reward for me is knowing that they are going off to do something really worthwhile.
“I still get to see them sometimes after they qualify, as Zeva and I will spend quite a bit of time in the police dog training facility over the coming months and the licensed dogs return for regular training. And yes, they still recognise me after all this time!”
No previous experience of dog handling is necessary to become a puppy socialiser, although you need to be committed and prepared to be in regular contact with the police training centre in Sulhamstead.
You can find more information about the Thames Valley scheme here.