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News article photos (6 items)

Constable David (Billy) Hill from Rotorua and police dog Issy in a tracking exercise with Dick Staal.
Dick Staal talking to some of the seminar participants.
Using food as a reward during training can help retain a puppy's attention for longer than a toy. (Photo: Ten One)
Close up side view of a puppy's head and front paws as it looks intently at something on the floor during training.
Detector dog training
Wide shot of a detector dog training scenario in a makeshift lounge.

Police dog trainers and handlers picked up some new tricks for training their canine colleagues this week, as the Police Dog Training Centre hosted one of the largest working dog seminars New Zealand has seen.

The seminar, organised in partnership with New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), brought leading police and working dog expert Dick Staal from Europe to share the training methods he's been developing for nearly 50 years.

Around 170 people and dozens of working dogs from multiple agencies attended the nine-day seminar in Trentham, which was split into three-day seminars on detection, puppy development and tracking skills.

“There’s pretty much every New Zealand working dog agency represented here, as well as Australian representation from Australian Police and Defence Force,” says National Coordinator Police Dogs Inspector Todd Southall.

“This has been a fantastic opportunity because Dick is internationally recognised and what he’s training is what’s happening in Europe.

"So for us to see we’re pretty much on the same page with what’s happening in Europe, we’re pretty happy with that.”

Todd says despite knowing they’re doing well, our dog trainers and handlers are always looking for anything they may be missing or ways to improve.

“There are little things we’ve picked up that we may look to introduce after debriefing the seminar, particularly around puppy development, but overall I think the positive is that we’re actually doing a good job in our training across the board.”

The Police Dog Trust has overseen funding for the seminar, including the cost of Police staff attending. The other agencies, including NZDF, Customs, Corrections, DOC, Blind Low Vision, LandSAR and Assistance Dogs, paid for their own representatives to attend.

Some of the participants from the various agencies attending the seminar. 
The participants of the puppy development seminar. Over the course of nine days, about 170 people from 15 New Zealand and Australian government agencies attended to learn Dick Staal's training techniques. 

There’s been really good co-operation between NZDF and Police in organising this and credit goes out to Alan Inkpen [NZDF’s Military Working Dog Capability Manager] for the work that he’s done,” says Todd.

“As well as the training, there’s been a lot of good networking going on, especially with the agencies we don’t usually have a lot to do with.”

Alan says NZDF initially considered sending staff to one of Dick’s overseas courses before realising the benefits - and cost-effectiveness - of bringing him to New Zealand instead.

“We realised if we bring Dick to New Zealand we can get more people and organisations exposed to that training and methodologies for an all-of-government approach," says Alan.

"It hasn't been done before and will be extremely valuable for all of us."

As for what happens next for Police, Todd says they'll debrief to establish what seminar techniques they want to implement, then trial them with a couple of puppies.

"If it's successful then we will look to expand the training out to all the districts so we're consistent with our training nationally."