Met Police dog trials at Bromley Common Cricket Club
This week saw the Met running one of its regular police dog trials aimed at keep the hard-working beasts in prime condition. HELOISE WOOD was straining at the leash to find out what it takes to become "top dog".
WHAT chases criminals, abseils, searches for drugs and traces human remains - all for a rubber ring? You know the answer.
The Met's 250 police dogs are a fundamental part of the force with some dying in the line of duty.
They even go to the toilet on command.
Occasionally these working dogs, which tend to be German or Belgian shepherds, labradors or spaniels, get a chance to show off their skills at the Police Dog Trials.
This competition ensures the dogs’ skills are up to scratch - chasing, detaining and searching for suspects as well as finding property.
I caught up with officers from the Dog Support Unit, based at Catford traffic garage, who were showcasing their dogs at the Bromley Common Cricket Club in Oakley Road, as part of the regional trials.
The working life of a police dog starts at 18 months and ends when they are eight or nine.
In 99 per cent of cases, when they retire they stay with the handlers.
The role of dog handler is a hotly contested job.
Recently the Met advertised internally for 10 posts and received more than 200 applications.
The animals can be general purpose dogs or they can be given specialisms such as searching for remains or firearm tactical support. It seems, however, there is no end to their skills.
Met police dog support unit Chief Inspector David Cooper said: "We had some of them abseiling in a harness as part of Olympic security and I swear we had a dog who could spell a few years ago.
"They like the criminal work because they get rewards, it’s all about encouragement.
"A police dog can expect a small rubber ring for tracing property and a large rubber ring for man work."
He added: "I couldn’t be a dog handler - you have to get up at four, take it for a walk, take it to work, look after it in the evening.
"I admire all the handlers because they put in so much time and effort."
It’s hard not to get a thrill from watching dog handlers dressing up as criminals with hidden protective gear, running across fields and even firing fake guns before being set upon by excitable dogs.
Dog handler Ian Morrison said: "It’s difficult with things like this because the dogs do have their off days.
"The handlers feel nervous on days like this and dogs pick up on this pretty easily.
"They work hard and during the August riots they’d been out so much they got sore paws."