Police dogs `like gold dust' after 9/11 terror attacks.
Good alsatians are said to be as rare as gold dust now because of the increase in security measures after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Gwent Police need them to sniff out drugs or explosives, track criminals, search buildings and help officers keep public order.
Force dog instructor Pc Tony Radford said yesterday, ``We are in urgent need of dogs. Their contribution to the police service is invaluable, whether in the detection or prevention of crime.
``I can assure the public that our dogs have the best of lives, both working and family. Their welfare is of the utmost importance to us.''
Swansea dog trainer Tony Cronin, who runs DragonK9 which produces explosives and drugs dogs for police forces around the world, is not surprised that Gwent Police are having difficulty in finding German shepherds.
``There is a shortage of them throughout the UK,'' he said. ``Good German shepherds which can be trained for police work are now changing hands at pounds 1,200 each, and that puts a strain on force budgets.
``The underlying problem is that the dogshow fraternity is breeding German shepherds for looks, not brains.
``What makes really good policedog potential is a bright, intelligent, German shepherd which loves chasing a tennis ball. The idea is to reward the dog by allowing it to chase the ball after finding guns or explosives.
``Unfortunately, really bright, attentive German shepherds are at a premium right now because so many are being bred for shows, not for working.
``I'm looking out for suitable dogs for the Gwent force myself, but after September 11 and the huge rise in security good German shepherds are like gold dust. I wish them the best of luck in finding some good police dogs.''
German shepherd dogs or alsatians are particularly prized by police forces for their intelligence, vigilance, fidelity and watchfulness.
Like all dogs they have a finelytuned sense of smell, making them invaluable for drug or explosivesniffing work.
The dogs are also fearless and because of their breeding as animal protectors have a decided suspicion of strangers.
They stay alert to every sight and sound, with nothing escaping their attention.
A police officer who volunteers to become a dog handler must have completed at least two years' streetduty experience as a uniformed officer.
Once approved by a board of senior officers, the prospective handler attends a twoweek suitability course to make sure he or she has the temperament to work with dogs. If the course is completed successfully a dog is allocated and lives in the handler's home, becoming a part of the family. The dogs, with their handlers, undergo a series of courses and tests before becoming police dogs.
They are taught to search different types of places such as open countryside, wooded areas and buildings for criminals and stolen property and to give signals to their handlers when they find what they are seeking.
By the end of their training the police dogs are completely trained in criminal work, involving chase and attack, standoff, chase in the face of a stick, gun or other weapon and in how to control prisoners and crowds.
At all times dogs are trained to apply only enough force necessary to carry out their police duties.
They will do everything from keeping soccer hooligans in order to searching for a lost child.
By the time dogs are trained they represent an investment of many thousands of pounds. Police dogs are regarded around the world as among the best assets that forces have at their disposal in terms of detection and deterrence.
TEAMWORK: Pc Tony Radford of Gwent Police with his eightyearold German shepherd Jake