Daisy* has been a dog handler within the police force since the start of 2020 and before that she worked as a response officer for five years. She works – on average – six shifts on and two shifts off (a combo of early, late and night shifts) and often clocks up ten-hour working days.
She says: “I knew since teenage-hood that working with animals was what I wanted to do in some capacity. When I joined the police, I saw what an impact the Dog Team could make, and it filled me with awe. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.”
Here she shares what an average day on the job looks like for her…
8.30am: “I’ll get up and get Maeve* up out of her kennel. She’s a two-year-old German Shepherd bitch and she lives with me – it’s literally a 24/7 lifestyle. I generally spend about 30 minutes in the garden or kennel with her, just having some quality time and making sure she’s well. Then I’ll either try to do a workout at home, go for a run, go to a gym class and take Maeve* out for a short walk or some basic training.”
10am: “I usually skip breakfast before late shifts in favour of a large coffee and a couple of chocolate digestives.”
1pm: “I like to have a big lunch before my shift. We don’t get a paid lunch/dinner break, so quite often I end up eating on the move. Once a week we will try and meet as a team for a kebab, but it’s always dependent on operational commitments.”
2.30pm: “My late shift starts. The first thing I do is kit up the dog van and myself (sign out a taser etc.) Then check my emails and check in with the team sergeant to see what’s been happening that day and if they have any specific taskings for us. As a general rule, dog handlers spend most of our time outdoors and spend very little time at a desk which is a huge aspect of why the role appealed to me.”
“At the moment I only have one dog, however, as I gain experience in the role I will be expected to take on a second specialist search dog (e.g. drugs/explosives/victim recovery). We work as a team with the other dog handlers in terms of assisting one another with training/acting as stooges to take bites etc. so I end up working with lots of other handlers’ dogs too.”
3.30pm: “My first call-out. A 16-year-old male high risk/suicidal missing person has been sighted by a friend running off to a local football ground. This was a large open area that needed to be searched, including stands and a number of shipping containers in the grounds used for storage. It is much quicker to send my dog in, who will search primarily for human scent rather than with her eyes, like us, and miss things. The area was cleared and the male was located a short distance away and received the help that he needed.
5.30pm: “I get my second call. An older female living alone called to say that she had disturbed two males trying to access her farm buildings and they had run off over a fence in to fields. We arrived and I set my dog up to track. She indicated to me the point at which they had gone over the low fence around the property and we were off. We tracked across several large fields and five-bar gates before emerging on to the lane accessing the property. When we reached a small layby the track went dead and I could see that there were fresh tyre tracks from a vehicle which presumably had been waiting for them. Frustrating!”
8pm: “We’re called by colleagues to assist at an address where a female is reporting that her boyfriend has been drinking and has “gone mad”, waving a large knife around and damaging doors inside the address. The boyfriend had left the address and it was unknown whether he was still in possession of the weapon. We arrived, and moments after, the male re-emerged going back towards the address. A colleague saw something glinting in his pocket as she approached him and so he was given verbal instructions to remove his hands from his pockets so that he could be handcuffed and searched for everyone’s safety. He became verbally aggressive and I instructed my dog to start barking to deter him from coming forwards toward us. He finally complied and was handcuffed and arrested. In this situation we provide a contingency to protect officers – If the male had drawn a knife and started making towards us, Maeve* is trained to bite and detain the subject until they are disarmed. Thankfully such action wasn’t needed on this occasion.”
“Policing overall has changed drastically in the past 12 months and it worries me. We’re attending more and more domestic related and mental health calls than ever before.”
10.30pm: “I usually get home at around now (shift overlaps are currently discouraged due to Covid 19), having de-kitted and cleaned my van ready for the next shift. I’ll put Maeve* straight to bed, then sit up for an hour or so watching TV or listening to music and enjoying a glass of wine to wind down.”
12am: “I’m naturally a bit of a night owl, so I usually have to make myself head to bed around midnight, knowing that I won’t be able to sleep in past 9am in the morning. Because Maeve* lives with me; I don’t get to switch off and not worry about work until the next shift – she’s completely reliant on me, and still needs exercising and training on our days off. I think a lot of people underestimate the commitment that this role requires.”
“My favourite thing about my job is seeing my dog grow and succeed, and seeing how much she enjoys it along the way! Gone are the days of harsh punishment and training, everything we do is exciting and rewarding for the dog – We work to build their drive and desire to undertake the tasks that we want from them. And I get to work with my best friend every single day.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities