WDP - PD Baloo
We were very excited to meet police dog Baloo and her handler Ross as part of our project. Baloo is a two year old Malinois and 28 kg of lean muscle. She is indeed a sight to behold!
Malinois dogs are active, alert, confident, friendly, hardworking, stubborn and watchful – and because of this, they make great working dogs.
Baloo came to the Essex police force at just 14 months old from specialist breeders in Holland. They help to supply dogs for the services. Even at this age Baloo was already partially trained. When puppies arrive at the dog handler unit to continue training, they are always matched very carefully with their handler.
Ross already has two pet dogs, so has plenty of canine experience but working police dogs are a whole different thing.
Training is intensive, and dog and handler are soon training together for five days a week and for three months looking towards qualification as a licensed team. At the end of the three months they are both tested on their skill set. Assessors are looking at safety, control and command and to see if dogs can work through the skills they will need for their day to day work. Training never stops and continues daily even now.
Baloo’s skills include TRACKING, typically searching for suspects who have left a crime scene and fled. Baloo picks up on ground disturbance and can track on grass for up to two hours. Baloo is also highly trained at SEARCHING, able to search buildings or open areas. She can search a whole building methodically one room at a time and detain a hidden suspect or alert a handler of anything suspicious. Amazingly, she can do this with or without a handler with her.
You can hide wherever you like but Baloo will find you!
Baloo can also search for items dropped at the scene of a crime. This can be items that have been left behind, car keys or even a weapon. Her sense of smell is thousands of times more sensitive than that of a human and one of her most impressive skills.
Another interesting talent is BITE WORK, the ability to detain and control a dangerous suspect. Baloo is so quick over ground and can chase and detain a fleeing suspect in a flash. Under complete control, Baloo is ready to be called back or follow several commands as soon as she hears them. She can make a noise or track and detain you in silence bringing you to the ground, disarming you of a weapon or holding you until an officer arrives to take over.
Impressively these dogs are also trained to go into a dangerous area along with an armed officer and act as a camera carrier.
At all times, the safety of these animals is paramount. Dog and handler form a close bond and are a professional team. No officer will ever put a dog in danger.
Baloo, like many of us, does shift work and it has taken a while for her to get used to late nights, early mornings and the changes in routine. Ross remembers Baloo looking at him at odd points in the day as if to say, “what are we doing here at this time Dad?”
Police dogs usually work until they are seven or eight years old when they can retire to their handler. As you can imagine, owners and handlers have developed an enormous bond through this time.
The Essex Police Force have around 25 dog handlers. The dogs are mostly German Shepherds, but the force have started to use Malinois more and more. They are a rounded working dog - strong, agile, very quick and able to be used for a number of roles.
Baloo has already been in action. She has a number of arrests under her belt and has already captured a number of criminals, chasing them, cornering them and barking fiercely until backup arrived.
It’s at this point that most villains usually give up.
She has also tracked a number of escaped suspects and found them in hiding. Here, she used her skill at what the police force call suspicion work. Baloo can determine if someone is somewhere they are not normally found. She recently caught a criminal hiding behind a fence when no one else had seen him. She kept on and on at Ross until he searched the area she was leading him to, only to find the person they were looking for.
At 28 kg Baloo is one of the smaller dogs on the force. Some of the big German Shepherds are over 40 kg, but they are not as quick as the Malinois and not as tenacious.
Baloo is rewarded whenever she does well with a rough-and-tumble game with her handler. At this point, Ross gave us a demonstration and they spent five minutes swinging around in rough play, and Baloo clearly loved every second of it!
Today Baloo is playing in the garden like a household pet. She has bags of energy but enjoys all the games any big dog would. She loved having a fuss and covering us in kisses too! It’s important that with all her responsibility she still finds time to be a dog.
She is exercised for around three hours a day, so these dogs do not make great pets as very few people have the time to look after them properly. They are extensively used by the military as they are clever and versatile.
We have learnt so much meeting Baloo and Ross. It has been great to get an insight into how these dogs are trained and what they are able to do.
She’s back to work tomorrow keeping the streets of Essex safe and we are thrilled to have met her. What a treat!