Last Saturday I competed in the BPSCA Dog Trials open to all serving dog handlers and also retired and civilian handlers of protection dogs. I was with my work partner 'Aoife' (pronounced 'eefa' to those non Gaelic speakers) who is a German Shepherd, just over two years old.
It was the first time I had entered any trials and as far as I know the first time Aoife had too. We were in competition with Prison Service dog handlers and RAF Police handlers in the Service dog category the dogs entered were other German Shepherds, Rottweiler and Malinois.
Unfortunately the field wasn't as big as in previous years with financial cutbacks across the police and services which meant other handlers were prevented from entering due to budget and political constraints.
I volunteered to pay for my own entry and membership of the BPSCA and the customer where I am based provided me with transport and fuel.
It was a really good day and an invaluable experience for both myself and the dog. It is easy to fall into the familiarity trap at work and become accustomed to the usual routine and training methods. Seeing some of the other dogs working and picking up tips from fellow dog handlers was a great learning tool which I can take away and come back next year with the benefit of this experience.
There were four disciplines to get through:
Obedience - heelwork done at slow, normal and fast pace with a recall, speak on command and retrieve thrown in at various points. All tasks had to be completed with the dog under control and as laid out in the rules.
Agility - to test the dog over obstacles and also the handler and dog control. The handler had to remain motionless, send the dog over the obstacle with the dog expected to sit before and after it had completed each one and stay there until commanded otherwise.
Property Search - this was a new one for myself and the dog. She had to find four articles within a 25m x 25m square within 5 minutes, indicate she had found something and remain under control. The handler is not permitted to enter the square unless they are going to pick up the article found by the dog.
Manwork - this consisted of three seperate tasks. Courage under gunfire, detain the gunman and handler to effect an arrest.
Discontiniation of chase, the baiter to break from cover and run beyond a certain point before the dog can be released. When released, the dog is to chase and after a certain point be called back on a single word of command. The dog is expected to cease the chase and either return to it's handler, drop on the spot or carry out a stand off without biting.
Stick attack, the baiter emerges from cover with a stick, ignore the handlers challenge and move to attack, the dog is released and is expected to bite and hold the baiter while being attacked with a padded stick until commanded to leave by the handler.
I finished third in the service dog section which was a reasonable result for a first attempt with a young dog. We were 19 points away from the lead and if she had completed her weave poles in the agility section (as she does every other day of the week) and completed other minor things as she does time and time again back at the unit we would've had a very good shout at winning it at the first go.
So mixed feelings at the end, a good day and a useful exercise coupled with the frustration of 'what if.......?'! :)
Here are a few photos of the day and of yours truly......