Paul Beresford

Explosive Detection Dog Handlers Course Level 4 No Walk in the Park

“ It’s a strange thing one minute your safe with a job you love, then before you know it your being made redundant, well that’s what happen to me on the 11 July 2012, after serving Queen and Country for twenty years I was given early redundancy. So what to do now with just over six months it was time to start looking at a new career, but what to do now was the question? One thing had crossed my mind, during my time in the Army I had served as a GP dog handler for just over four years which I had really enjoyed at the time.

So with that in mind I started searching researching and using the internet to see what I could find. It was about this time that my current boss who had recently got back from a six month tour of Afghanistan, he informed me that civilian dog handlers were working out in Afghanistan in the role of EDD handlers, this really got me thinking. I was already a CIED Instructor in the Army so I know a little bit about explosives and what to look for, so with this in mind I started searching for training companies running the EED handler’s courses, and believe me there are a lot of them around; however one did seem to keep popping up on all my searches, Malpeet K9 Academy and as it happens there was a course running in October which was just the ticket. With this in mind I emailed Malpeet K9, and with a very fast reply I was given all the details of the course running in October, I then spoke to the Manager of Malpeet Simon Mallin who was also the lead Instructor for Malpeet, I was very impressed with what information Simon had to offer, and his vast knowledge of this subject so with that in mind I booked my place on the October course. I arrived at Malpeet K9 Academy in Port Talbot on Saturday morning on the 13th October to a bright and sunny day for the first day of the EDD handler’s course, where I meet Simon, and Chris the other student straight away Simon got things started by covering all aspects of the courses from the admin to how things would run from day to day throughout the course, which impressed both me and Chris straight away. Simon also made it clear that we would be working with two novice dogs each throughout the course this would ensure our success rate just in case one of the dogs did not make the grade.

I was then introduced to both my dogs first was a bitch Labrador cross border collie called Magic she had come up from Battersea dogs home, my second was a little chocolate cocker spaniel called Fred. Straight after our first day we got right in to things with a trip to Pyle British legion (one of the many venues Simon uses for his courses) to begin with at this stage of the course we need to get the dogs working on basic search procedure before we could start moving on, this also gave us as students a clear idea of what to look for when selecting a dog. Over the next few days we got in to a very good routine, working the dogs during the day then studying in the evenings, for our written exams. It was about this time I started to have problems with Magic as she was getting bored and frustrated when conducting a search, which meant she would rather do her own thing than search. She had also figured out that Simon had the tennis ball and that she would not receive this until she had indicated on a substance which she had decided was far too much effort.

With this in mind Simon suggested that it might be an idea for Magic to take a break for a few days, and see what she was like after the weekend, Simon also suggested while Magic took a break I worked with Sam his own dog I happily agreed with the advice he had to offer me. The next Day I meet Simon’s dog, Sam a Black liver and white Springer Spaniel, who I worked with for the next few days, at the same time still continuing to work with Fred. By end of the first week we had achieved so much, Simon was very happy with both our progress as handlers, and the progress of the dogs. That we were given the choice of a day off or carry on training, straight away both me and Chris decided that a day off would be a good idea not only did we need it from a very busy week, but this would give the dogs a nice bit of a break. Straight after our little break we got the ball rolling again this time we had moved to another venue called Owens a small transport compound, this gave us the chance to work both open areas and vehicles. Magic had now returned from her short break and I was hoping that she would get back into things straight away. This was not to be the case as she would once again get bored and frustrated to easily, by the end of the day things were not getting any better. After the days training Simon pulled me to one side to discuss the problem with Magic and gave me two options the first was to keep Magic until the end of the week, and see how she performed, or the second was to pull Magic from the course, and bring in Sam as a short term replacement. I decided that I would keep with Magic, as I believed she would get better by the end of the week, and Simon was more than happy with this option. Towards the end of the second week of the first module the tempo had got a lot harder we were now carrying out longer and more difficult searches, Fred was working so well by this point a right little search machine, however far less could be said about Magic, as she had not progressed throughout the week like I had hoped, with this in mind Simon suggested that it might be time to pull her off the course as it would start to hamper my progress as a handler, with this weighing at back of my head I took Simon’s advice and agreed to let her go at the end of the first module. By the end of the first module we had covered so much in such a short time, and to top it all off, on the last day of the first module me and Chris were given a very difficult area to search, an old skip hire place this had it all, buildings, vehicles, routes and areas, and to top it all we got our first taste of role play when we were meet by PC Mallin who informed us of our task and time limit, no pressure then.

With that in mind we got straight into things, with me now only working Fred it meant Chris would work two dogs as I added him as his spotter for the day, by the end of the day me and Chris oh and the dogs had worked our socks off. We were now looking forward to a nice little break before we started the second module. After our ten day break me and Chris were keen to start where we had left off, however this time I would not be working with Magic as she had return to Battersea dogs home which was a shame, but as Simon had pointed out if we had kept her this would have caused problems for me as a handler. But on the plus side I was now working Simon’s dog Sam again which I was more than happy with. Throughout the next few days we continued to work on our own individual skill as handlers and with Simon’s guidance our skills were increasing by the day, however throughout the week I felt at times like I was going backwards rather than progressing forward, as Simon was picking up on more and more faults with our search system, but as Simon explained to me and Chris he was trying to get our skills as slick as possible, so it meant picking up on things he had let us get away at the beginning of the course and to top that because of Fred’s size and speed he had a tendency to go out of sight. During the first week back we also took a trip down to Somerset to visit a training venue run by a company called ALFORDS, there we would get the dogs indicating on homemade explosives which were produced on the site this was a chance of a life time as in this business there is no way to replicate homemade explosives for real. Once again towards the end of the week Simon suggested it might be an idea to take a break before we started the second week, me and Chris happily agreed as by this point our heads were now crammed with so much information. However before our little break we were tasked to conduct a building search of an old cinema located in the centre of Cardiff and believe me this is going to be mad, but right away me and Chris put this in the back of our heads and got on with the job in hand this time we were met by Sgt Mallin (more role play) who briefed us on the task at hand. I started first and straight away little Fred got his first find, as the day continued we progressed through the cinema working as a well-oiled team, and by the end of the day myself, Chris and the dogs had worked our socks off and had enjoyed every minute of it. So after our second little break we continued where we had left off, with Simon tweaking our individual skills so that they would be perfect for the final assessment which was now growing ever closer. However before the week was over we had another trip to Summerset this time we would travel down without the dogs for a CIED and explosive awareness course which had been planned and organised by Simon and delivered by ATOM training, the course was aimed at making EDD handlers more aware of the threat and how effective explosives could be, this involved a demo by ATOM of the different explosives and their effects.

As an ex-Army CIED instructor myself I was very impressed with the subject matter that course covered, oh and of course enjoyed every minute of the explosives demo. After our short trip away in Summerset we got the next day started with Simon introducing us to our NASDU assessor a very experienced ex-police Met instructor namely Stewart Judd, or Stu, straight away nerves started to set in however as we started the day at our first venue Pyle British legion. Stu explained that throughout the day he would be only watching us and would give advice when needed which made both me and Chris feel a bit easier. After the first day with both Simon and Stu giving me and Chris advice and words of encouragement I felt a lot less nervous. By this point of the course both me and Chris now had one dog each, me with little Fred and Chris with Digger a Springer Spaniel. The next day we went right into it, with a day of role play with me and Chris on call ready to deploy at the drop of a hat. At 0900hrs that morning we received a text to meet at a RV point we were met by both (DI Judd and Sgt Mallin) who briefed us on the task in hand which turned out to be a very tricky route search, like everything in life nothing goes to plan and on this occasion things did not go that well for both of us, and by the end of the first search myself and Chris were not feeling over confident. The next port of call was the British legion at Cardiff a very complicated building with lots of people around and so much ground to cover we had our work cut out for us, once again things did not go to plan for me as I lost sight of Fred twice during the search and almost pulled him off a hide. For our last search of the day we travelled to a place called Mermaid Quay in Cardiff a very busy food and bar outlet area. Once there we were tasked with the job in hand, this time things went well for both of us which made up for the rest of the day. By the time we returned to Malpeet K9 Academy we were ready to call it a day, but after a bit of tea and a few hours rest we pulled ourselves together ready for the last day the final assessment.

The next day we both woke up full of nerves but we both agreed, we would give it our all. We met up with both Simon and Stu that morning at Malpeet K9 Academy along with anther lad called Steve Rawnson, who was joining us for the day to do his yearly assessment. Our first port of call was a transport yard here we were tasked with an area and route search, for this Chris went first, and after what felt like an hour Chris returned with a big smile on his face things had gone well for him and digger, before I started Chris said to me just enjoy it and everything will be fine. Right from the word go me and Fred got right in to it with Fred indicating on every hide, Fred worked beautifully that morning and it was almost as if he knew that this was it, half an hour later we had finished with a big thumbs up from both Stew and Simon. Our next stop was Neath British legion and it I was my turn to go first, with that in mind me and Fred got straight in to it once again Fred worked so well for me and by this point things were now flowing for both of us as we moved from room to room finally we had reached the last room of the search a very large snooker room from the word go Fred had his nose everywhere and before I knew it Fred had indicated on the hide and with that Stew pulled me to one side and told me what I was hoping to hear all week; yes you have passed well done, I almost danced out of the building.

Before long both Chris and Steve had completed their searches, Chris and Digger had passed their assessment together and Steve had also passed his yearly assessment so all three of us had a big smile on our faces. The next day me and Chris said our farewells to Simon and thanked him for all his hard work, he had put so much in making this such a well-run and organised course, then we said our farewells to each other. As I left Malpeet K9 Academy I knew that I had gained some very good lifelong friends and one hell of a fantastic dog in Fred who is a total search machine. So what does the future hold for me and Fred now? Only time will tell but we will both face it together.”

Paul Beresford EDD Handler. (bezpaul23@hotmail.co.uk) Tel 07515896265”