A RESCUE dog with a difference looks set for a crime-fighting career.
At first glance six-month-old red Cocker Spaniel Chester appears like any other puppy.
But the spritely spaniel is set to become an explosives search dog if he passes some tough training.
Chester was taken to the Kenilworth branch of Dogs Trust after his previous owners struggled to cope with him. Staff at the centre thought Chester would flourish in a working environment and contacted Warwickshire Police, which placed the pup with police dog unit member PC Matt Phillips.
And the pair were a perfect match – as Matt previously volunteered at the rehoming centre.
Now Chester lives with his 32-year-old handler, his wife and two children at their Rugby home, along with another three police dogs.
Matt has already began some light training with the pup, which he rewards with a tennis ball – although the real work will not begin until next year.
He said: “The hope is he will be my explosives search dog. Currently I’m getting him socialised with animals and people and putting him in new situations, like going on a train and to an airport.”
Chester will have to meet a minimum amount of training each year as with all police dogs. Drug sniffer dogs currently have to do at least 60 hours annually even after passing the course.
But Matt says the service they offer is ‘invaluable’.
He told the Observer: “The dogs love what they do, we would not use them otherwise.
“From a police perspective the threat from criminals is massive and that is well neutralised by dogs. People are often not scared by tasers or CS gas but the medical implication of a dog bite is huge. I have been on jobs when people have given up as soon as they know there is a police dog on the team.”
Matt’s has another three dogs already fighting crime.
They are Delta, a five-year-old Malinois, Kayla, a seven-year-old retired German shepherd, and Bliss, a ten-year-old Labrador cross who is also a rescue police dog. She was given to the force by the RSPCA after being found in an abandoned house.
The trio are all involved in supporting the force to find firearms but also have a more paws-on job.
Delta recently sniffed out a loaded shotgun in Coventry on the hottest day of the year, which led to the arrest of a man. She also stopped a robbery in progress involving a gang of four – after biting one of them the other three immediately gave up.
And before retiring Kayla found a wanted person who was about to attack an officer.
They also search venues before events – one recent high-profile job being Blenheim Palace ahead of Donald Trump’s state visit.
Matt said with the RSC and Warwick Castle on the doorstep he was kept busy, and with the Commonwealth Games just around the corner he was expecting the dogs to be particularly in demand.
Despite a busy workload the dogs still find plenty of time for play, with regular long walks in the Warwickshire countryside.
They also ‘love’ playing together in the back garden, with the older trio immediately taking Chester in as one of the team.
Dogs Trust say it is intelligence and drive which makes some dogs stand out as perfect for the job.
If they have a dog which they think would be suited to the role they contact the force, which then send out a specialist to see if they also believe he or she would be ideal.
So far this year seven dogs from the Kenilworth centre have been given to forces across the midlands. The most common breeds used in the force are Malinois, German Shepherds, Spaniels and even Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
A charity spokeswoman said: “One of the main reasons we work with the police is because we know some dogs enjoy being police dogs.
“We have been working with police forces for many years to try and find suitable candidates to join them. If for whatever reason a dog does not pass its training it is returning to the centre to find its forever home.”
While a small percentage of dogs join the police force there are currently more than 150 at Dogs Trust Kenilworth looking to find a home.
Visit www.dogstrust.org.uk or visit the centre to find out more.
Follow @PD_Delta on Twitter to stay updated with Matt’s police dogs.