The Dog Section is one of the most popular units with the public.
Highly-trained dogs have played a vital role in the work of Dorset Police since 1953, when the county was among the first in Britain to set up a specialist section.
Since then the Force’s dogs and their handlers have been involved in working on the front-line to detect and deter crime, as well as acting as important ambassadors for Dorset Police with our communities.
The Dog Section is based at Ferndown and Weymouth and is covered by one inspector, one sergeant and 13 constables responsible for 22 dogs. The Force currently has 12 German Shepherd dogs mainly trained for general purpose duties, and nine dogs trained in sniffing out drugs, firearms, cash or explosives. In June 2014, 10-week-old German Shepherd puppy Gus joined the team.
Potential canine recruits are chosen for their excellent breeding and even temperament – essential qualities for the role they will play.
The German Shepherds tend to be males, because they are bigger, while sniffer dogs can be male or female, as long as they have a brilliant nose for the job!
Successful candidates are trained in obedience, teamwork, tracking, how to search for people and objects and how to chase and hold suspects on the run. Sniffer dogs also receive specialist training to develop their sense of smell – already said to be 200 times more sensitive than the human version. The explosives dogs are also taught to bark and retreat when they identify suspect devices, allowing human experts to step in.
The dog handlers are permanently paired up with at least one German Shepherd and sometimes a specialist dog as well. The dogs first meet their handlers when they are aged between 10 and 18 months and become full-time partners during a canine career that can last seven years. They often become lifelong companions, living as family pets with their handlers after retirement.