Gareth Bothwick

Gareth from Devon attended a General Purpose Level 2 Dog Handlers Course.

“It’s been a lifelong dream to become a dog handler, from growing up with German Shepherds as a child to joining the Army and seeing them in action around the camps to being deployed in theatre. In 1996 I was deployed to Northern Ireland and after seeing dogs there I knew one day I was going to make it happen for myself. Jumping forward nearly 20 years and I still have a massive passion for dogs, GSD’s in particular. I am now in a position to fulfil my dream and become a dog handler. I can imagine 20 years ago if I looked up how to become a dog handler it would have been a lot simpler and far less companies supplying the course. Today it is a massive section of the private security world with a lot of very good companies advertising ‘The Best Course’ for the right price. I will say this; if you are looking to become a dog handler make sure you research companies and their history because at the end of the day it’s a massive investment for yourself. If I’m honest I have been looking for companies since 2010 sending out feeler emails and doing a lot of research.

I wanted the best, I didn’t care what the location was, I just wanted to know I was getting the best training available, and for the past 4 years Malpeet K9 Academy were always at the top. The history and who they’re associated with is very impressive and Simon Mallin, well, if I had to label him in military terms, Tier 1 all the way. I live in Devon so for me it was a case of going up to Malpeet K9 Academy a day early which was very convenient as I could get Major and I settled in and have a good rest before starting the course. On reaching Malpeet, Simon Mallin was kind enough to meet me in person and give me a rundown of all protocols I needed to know about the facilities, kennels and the surrounding areas. I was quite taken back about the location and the facilities the Academy had to offer. I felt I was definitely in the right place and was very lucky that I was 1 of 2 people on the course, as we would get more time with Simon and the training staff.

First day is a lot like any course, you get your initial brief about how the course is going to run, what to expect, do’s and don’ts, then comes the orientation which would consist of a quick walk around of all locations on site. Induction of the dogs up at the kennels and quite possibly the most important aspect of being a dog handler, care of your dog and their kennel. As I took my own GSD, Major, who was 20 months old there was only one induction which was Toby a big 6 year old GSD with a lot of character, which the other member of the course was using before buying his own suitable dog. After all aspects of kennel management had been done it was back down to the house for a quick brew and then to classroom to start the modules. You can see in the classroom looking around on the walls the sheer magnitude of how far Simon Mallin has come within the dog world, from army –civvi his knowledge is vast. Day 1 was pretty much staying in the classroom with quick trips to the kennels to give the dogs some exercise. Finally day 1 was over, dogs bedded down for the night and back to the house getting ready for bed, I realised the course was going to be tough but everything was in place for me to do well. The following few mornings are all set to get you and your dog drilled into routines set out on the course which is great; being ex-army it fell into place.

Everything we’re learning now is leading up as our roll to be a GP Dog Handler and teaching us things from rolls and responsibilities, the law, which is a massive factor when working with a trained dog, control techniques all the way back to conflict management, which everyone should know having an SIA licence. All this time in the back of my mind I know I have a test coming up, plus scenarios which will test if I ultimately have what it takes to be a Dog Handler, also knowing towards the end of the week we have a live venue that we will be working putting into practice everything we have learned and trained for. You can’t ask for better than that, real people, real situations, real life. For me one of the best parts of the course apart from working with Major, was having Simon Mallin on site, and more than happy to answer any questions.”