Dogs and puppies’ endearing loyalty has earned them the nickname “man’s best friend”. But while family dogs and pets get plenty of love, it’s possible that we overlook the courageous guards of our city – police dogs.
On February 1, Young Post spoke to the Police Dog Unit (PDU) chief inspector Lee Cheuk-wai about the different types of police dogs, and of course, said hello to the puppies getting ready to join the force.
Hong Kong currently has a total of 201 police dogs, of which 130 are on duty. With 21 canine cops retiring in 2019, the PDU bred about 20 Belgian Malinois Dogs and Labrador Retrievers late last year. Some of these pups will become the future of the canine police force.
Lee explained that there are three main types of police dogs – patrollers, drug sniffers, and explosive seekers.
“Patrol dogs ought to be in good physical shape, courageous, and unafraid of crowds to assist and protect police,” he said. “These characteristics are commonly found in Belgian Malinois Dogs, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Dobermans.”
He added that more than half of the police dogs in the PDU are patrol dogs, including
60 Belgium Malinois dogs, 40 German shepherds, and a few rottweilers and dobermans.
Police dogs responsible for searching for dangerous drugs and explosives, however, should show the qualities of a hunter, as well as possess a good sense of smell.
“Labrador retrievers and springer spaniels are usually good fits for finding explosives because they are small and fast,” Lee said.
“This is important as explosives must be spotted and cleared as quickly as possible to ensure public safety.”
He added that new pups entering the force need to begin their training at a young age – typically two years old or younger. The PDU selects dogs from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, and also buy dogs from Holland, Belgium, and Australia, and accept dogs from citizens, too.
“Candidates go through a series of activities and games, during which our coaches look for attributes such as being energetic, extroverted, and playful,” Lee said.
It takes 15 weeks to train patrol dogs, 12 for drug dogs, and eight for explosives dogs. Once the pups have mastered the necessary skills, it’s up to the dog handlers to ensure they maintain their performance.
Two professional dog handlers shared their experiences working with the pups at the event, and gave some delightful demonstrations.
“If we ever have difficulties with our dogs, the coaches at the PDU always help correct our mistakes, or even help modify our training methods to make things easier,” explained patrol dog instructor Tse Yuk-ming, who has been working with his German shepherd, Kimchi, for three years.
Explosive-search dog handler Eva Tsung Wai-ling, who works with Springer Spaniels performing preventive searches of high-risk flights, said the most important part of training is building an emotional connection with the dog.
“To them, searching [for explosives] is no different than playing,” said Tsung, who is the first female dog handler in Hong Kong.
“If my dog does something wrong, I don’t get mad at her, because if she’s not happy, I’m not happy, and it will be very hard for us to do our jobs.”
Edited by Ben Young