Friday, 18 April 2008

Working dogs and specialist homes

If you're a supporter of Dogs Trust, you'll know we have a strict policy of never putting a healthy dog down. So what do we do when encountered with a dog that might never make a suitable family pet due to hyperactive, feisty behaviour?

When I first started this job, a lot of people asked me this. My first response was always that the sponsor a dog programme is designed precisely for cases where, due to behavioural issues, ill health, age or other factors, a dog is unlikely to be rehomed. But for young, vibrant dogs there's also the option of becoming a working dog, something I hadn't considered much before becoming part of the team here.

As it turns out, boisterous dogs are always needed by the Armed Forces and prison services, while those dogs who are obsessed with their toys are much in demand for training as sniffer dogs.

The notion of a 'working' dog can be quite strange to some people, I think. The only ones I come into contact with on a regular basis are guide dogs, so I was subconsciously accustomed to the idea that working dogs are pretty docile, albeit with a fierce intelligence. Yet the Armed Forces, for example, look for dogs that have a drive for possession, are inquisitive and won't back down from confrontation.

Many qualities, then, that we wouldn't seek in a family pet, but that make for the extraordinary working animals who have featured in high profile police investigations and saved lives. They're not all work, work, work (sorry!) either. When talking to our subscriber magazine, Wag, PC Jacqui Hamilton gushed about her beloved partner Incy, who might be a determined cash detection dog - seeking laundered money - at work, but is a cuddly friend at home.

I had long suspected that not all working dogs are Hollywood-style big, bold, stereotypically "scary"-looking dogs, either. Quite right too; Incy is a Labrador/Staffy cross, and Ziggy, an active search dog in the prison service, is a friendly Springer Cocker cross (that's a 'Sprocker', apparently!).

Of course, you might be wondering, as I was, what happens when bright sparks like Incy and Ziggy come to the end of their careers. Well, the handler is offered first refusal on rehoming, and very often the dogs stay with them or go to their friends, family or a familiar colleague who has bonded with them.

If not, Dogs Trust is always here to help.
Post a Comment