Our Dog Training Unit is known not only throughout the country but globally, thanks to its world-class training courses.
Dogs are trained in a number of roles and disciplines, including general purpose and search and learning to sniff out explosives, drugs, money, blood, and dead bodies.
We have a mixture of Belgian and German Shepherds, Malinois and Dutch Herders as General Purpose Dogs, with breeds such as Labradors and Springer Spaniels being used for specialist searching.
A total of three dog trainers are based at our headquarters in Hutton near Preston where, between them, they train on average 40 dogs each year. We currently have 18 trained dog handlers spread across the county.
All of our dogs are allocated to a handler who they will stay with throughout their working life; they live at home with their handler and at the end of their working life most dogs retire and remain with their handler as a pet.
What does it take to be a dog handler?
If a police officer decides to become a dog handler they've got to complete an assessment process at the Police Dog Training Unit, before they are considered suitable to be a dog handler.
The officer will then go on to complete a 13-week general purpose dog training course, and because of the close working relationships between our officers and dogs, we always try to find a dog that is suitable for the handler. On starting the course, the handler will be introduced to their dog for the first time, but they quickly build up a bond. The course is really intense, both physically and mentally challenging, but at the end of the 13 weeks the dog and the handler know each other pretty well and that original bond is even stronger. You need to be a quick learner to be a dog handler; you've got to learn how the dog thinks and what drives his behaviour fairly fast.
Once the initial training has been completed both the dog and the handler are assessed again and then given the go-ahead to become fully operational. That's not the end though; they continue to train and are assessed every year.
More about our dogs
General Purpose Search Dogs
In search situations the police dog and handler team can help cover much larger areas more quickly than just an officer. They can detect human scent quite a few hundred yards away and get into bushes and woodland much more easily. This, with the handler's skills to control the dog, means a handler and dog can search large areas more effectively and efficiently saving lots of police time. They can help look for missing people, offenders and evidence too. It might be a vital piece of evidence for a case and the dog can be crucial for finding that missing piece of the jigsaw.
Tactical Firearms Support Dogs
These are very special dogs that have been highly trained to work with the firearms teams. There are only three dogs like this in Lancashire but they are being used almost every day to help armed officers in very difficult situations. These dogs are trained to use a special camera, which is attached to their heads and it sends a signal to a camera, so that the Firearms Commander can see inside a building where the subject may be hiding.
We have dogs that are trained to find large amounts of money that a criminal might have hidden. The dogs can find money that is hidden in buildings or gardens and of different quantities and denominations.
We also have specialist handlers with drug detection dogs. The team can save a long search and may find drugs so well hidden which the officers might not be able to find themselves. The dogs use their highly developed sense of smell to find the drugs. They help officers when searching vehicles, buildings, and other open areas for all types of drugs.
A number of dogs are trained to detect explosive substances. They will search an area before the visit of important people like a member of the Royal Family or the Prime Minister and the visit is only allowed to go ahead if the dog handler says it is safe to do so. They will also search if the police receive a 'bomb warning' and then the handler has to wear a special suit to protect them in case of an explosion.
Victim Detection/Forensic Evidence Recovery Dogs
We also have dogs that detect the scent of human blood, human tissue, teeth, bones and other bodily fluids. These dogs are used to find crime scenes and bodies that may have been buried in shallow graves. They have such a god sense of smell that they can detect a small drop of blood on a street and they have been known to find blood on a freshly painted surface.