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Nigel Allsopp has worked with dogs and animals in the military and in specialist areas from Customs, Police, Corrective Service and Federal Aviation Security and Zoos. He has also lectured widely and is sought after as a guest speaker on the topic of working dog and exotic animal training and management. Nigel has written several books on War dogs and Police dogs and is a vocal ambassador for the establishment of Animal Memorials to recognise their role and contribution in all Wars.
What first made you want to work specifically with dogs?
What is the best experience you’ve ever had working with dogs?
On a private note- the answer is every day. Every day no matter what has happened, your best mate is waiting for you, wagging its tail happy to see you.
...And the worst?
Have there been any specific dogs who have made an impact on your life?
Second was a dog called Rudy the Mascot of the Military Police Dog unit I served with in New Zealand. Rudy was a terrier/sausage dog cross. She was 10 feet tall in her mind and the boss of all 20 odd German shepherds in the kennels. She ruled the roost and we were inseparable.
What can you tell us about your new book, K9 Cops: Police Dogs of the World?
There is a lot of interest in Police things in general, you can turn on the TV most nights and find a cop show on some channel. However, not much has been written about police dogs, they work behind the scenes in many cases unknown to the public. Police dogs are even a bit of a mystery to a lot of police. It's a hard job to get into in the first place with up to 10 years waiting list in a lot of forces. Our Police dogs serve the community silently and there are few monuments for them that speak of their deeds... I hope that in K9 Cops people understand what police dogs do for them and the community at large.
K9 Cops is not just about Australia’s front line K9 fighters, but the world’s. In the book there are real life stories compiled from all over the world and these stories sit beside facts and images to provide an insight into what it takes to be a handler and how dogs get trained for this role and what they do.
Researching the book must’ve led to some interesting anecdotes. Could you relate one for our readers?
While a Military Dog handler I was tasked to guard the cold tarmac of an airfield awaiting the arrival of The Pope’s plane. The tarmac was marked with sprayed lines that didn’t mean much at the time. Well several hours into the shift my dog needed to go to the toilet and did so on one of these markers. It was a bit runny so I thought I would deal with it later.
When the Pope’s plane finally landed, the purpose of the white markers and the unfortunate placement of the forgotten dog poo became glaringly and uncomfortably obvious.
The plane rolled to a stop on one of the markers, the stairs came out positioned on the other, and the red carpet laid carefully out over the top of the other markers. The Pope descended the stairs, bent down and kissed the ground. I swear to this day he must have thought - ‘this carpet stinks’ - but as a true professional he stood up and shook the Prime Ministers hand. Thank God I am not a Catholic!
I have written another two books Cry Havoc and also Four Legged Diggers, the History of Australian War Dogs from WWI to Afghanistan today.
Firstly there is no one more than me that would love to see the day man's best friend did not have to risk its life in war, but the fact is in specific situations, especially for detecting explosives in Afghanistan, there is nothing more effective than a dog to help save human lives. War dogs have been credited to have saved hundreds of Australian lives. In police work they find missing persons, detect substances and of course deter criminals. In fact police dogs even save bad guys lives – for a criminal it would be a lucky day when you’re stopped by a set of teeth rather than a bullet.
What kind of training does a dog have to undergo in order to qualify for the police force? Does it differ from place to place?
In effect Police dogs are the SAS of the K9 world, out of hundreds tested only a few will make the grade. Most training takes approximately 14 weeks for most general police dogs; specialist dogs sometimes a bit longer. However not all dogs pass the grade, around 20 dogs maybe bred or selected but on average only two may graduate. Dogs simply have to be the best of the best. There have been situations where dogs been cut on the last day of a 14 week course, which indicates just how high the required standards are. Upon researching this book I have found it's the same the world over.
There's an old saying in the United States Police - When the public are in trouble they call 911, when cops are in trouble they call K9. When as a police officer you hear K9s are on the way you know you have good backup for the task in hand. Why? Well most cops out on the road in many forces have less than 5 years experience whereas dog handlers are nearly always veteran cops and then there's the $50,000 dog that comes with him, ready to help find that missing kid or bite the knife welding criminal barricading victims in the local store.
I am happy to work on my own with my k9 dog unlike most police who are always partnered up with another person. With a k9 partner I need to be in control of what I do in a situation, my reactions, my experience, be aware of how I’m feeling, however I know that my k9 partner never fails, will never quit and will die defending me- the price a pat and some love.
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