Taking the lead in fight against crime

NEW DOGS are being taught new tricks when they are recruited by Tayside’s crime-fighting canine constabulary.
In a UK first, Perthshire police dog handler Constable Rory Duncan, and his new canine conscript Fredy, have been learning new techniques to help track criminals on the move in the county.
Ground-breaking in Great Britain, the new tracking methods were picked up by chance when Tayside Police dog instructor PC Ron Anderson was on holiday in the United States.
Already the new methods have returned results great for the police, not such good news for the region’s criminals.
Just weeks after completing his training, Fredy – an imposing looking, 20-month-old German Shepherd general police dog – recovered weapons used in an attempted murder.
He’s gone on to track several suspects right to their door – one of them several storeys up in a block of flats.
Trainer PC Ron Anderson told the PA: “You get a great buzz when you year of results like this. Fredy really hit the ground running.
“Most of these criminals could have got away had it not been for police dogs like Fredy.”
Fredy was sourced in Holland by Ron and Rory. Increasingly the constabulary is looking further afield for canines suitable for the demands of being a police dog.
Typically, dozens of dogs can be assessed by Ron until he finds one which he feels will be well-suited to police work.
And new recruit Fredy quickly proved to be a good choice, he made the mission-ready grade after just eight weeks training rather than the usual 12.
The dogs and handlers continually refresh their training at various venues throughout Tayside and the PA caught up with Rory, Fredy and others in the team when they were brushing up their skills at Scone Racecourse.
On first appearance Fredy was a typical, tail-wagging, toy-playing young dog.
But with one command from handler Rory, Fredy instantly switched into work mode and showed one of his many talents – the ability to intimidate and deter. In this case it was for the camera and directed within a foot of a PA photographer muttering the mantra ‘lead don’t break’.
Next Fredy displayed some classic bite training, the move lurking with fear at the back of the mind of any criminal on the run.
Instructed to chase down dog instructor Ron Anderson, Fredy launched at Ron’s padded arm and held on with a vice-like grip until handler Rory caught up with the pair and gave the release command.
Then it was time for Fredy to show off the fruits of the new tracking technique he learned after a flaw in the training of UK police dogs to follow a scent trail recently become apparent.
The dogs initially tracked on grass where they were unwittingly being trained to sniff out freshly crushed grass rather than the scent of the human they were searching for.
This meant there was a critical window of opportunity for the dog to track on grass and then a huge risk the dog would lose the trail as soon as the surface changed to gravel or tarmac.
Dog instructor Ron Anderson discovered the flaw when he was on holiday in the States and encountered a US officer and police dog training outside a shopping centre.
“I went and spoke to them and offered to help set a track.
“I started walking straight towards the grass and the dog handler asked where I was off to and explained they train on hard surfaces first.
“So I went ahead and set the trail and then we stood and chatted.
“As time passed, and the dog hadn’t set off by then, I was worried people coming and going at the shopping mall were going to destroy the trail but then the handler explained how they do their training.
“It was fairly obvious then that there was a better way of training worth trying.
“Train on hard surfaces first and then grass,” explained Ron, “by then the dog has learned to tune into the human scent and not the smell of the crushed chlorophyll in grass.”
Fredy and his fellow new recruits have been trained using the new method and the results have been exceptional.
So showing off his new skills at Scone Racecourse, Fredy swiftly located a lost mobile phone and then hunted down a person hiding – showing off his intimidating side to make sure they were not tempted to turn and run.
With his day’s work done. It was time for Fredy to clock off and head home with handler Rory who, after years in the police force, landed his dream job in the dog section earlier this year.
With the day’s training finished and Fredy settled in the back of the police car ready to head home, Rory explained: “And at the end of the day, after his work is done, Fredy is part of the family.
“He’s done his day’s work too then comes home with me where he has his own kennel outside.
“On days off he is treated just like any other dog we take him out, play with him, head out for walks.
“He needs his time off too,” Rory said, just as young Fredy perked up, eager to tackle a new task.

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