Every now and then, police forces around the country call on volunteers to apply to foster trainee police puppies.
Successful applicants get the chance to raise one of their furry crime fighters, with the dog unit covering all basic costs, including vet fees.
When Sussex and Surrey Police asked for volunteer trainers in September 2019, pet lovers in the area jumped at the opportunity and within only 10 days, the police were forced to close the application process due to overwhelming interest.
But don't worry, with the increasing need for dogs’ invaluable support in helping policemen and policewomen keep our towns safe, it won’t be long until an opportunity to foster a police puppy presents itself again.
Taking care of our future canine heroes is no mean feat. But if you're interested in fostering a police puppy, here’s everything you need to know.
What does a police puppy foster carer do?
Apart from providing a loving home and lots of cuddles, the main role of a puppy carer is to assist in the overall development of potential police dogs during the first year of their lives, until they’re ready to step up their careers.
Although it's a volunteer role, being a puppy fosterer comes with more responsibilities compared to raising a normal dog.
Full-time carers are expected to bring the puppy in for regular training sessions and follow a structured development plan.
They're also instructed to let the puppies spend time with different people and experience a variety of activities.It helps them to feel comfortable and confident in any situation they may find themselves in as operational police dogs.
Who can be a police puppy foster carer?
Since the carer must supervise the dog at most times during the day, this role is suitable for a person working from home, a freelancer or someone with a lot of spare time.
The puppy is not meant to be left without supervision for longer than four hours a day, so it's important to note that if you work full time and are out of the house all day, you may not be a suitable candidate.
Although some police departments request experience or “a very keen interest in training dogs”, this is not essential.
Nevertheless, the Surrey and Sussex joint police dog unit set out the following essential criteria. Each applicant must:
Be over 18-years-old
Be available to attend scheduled puppy training classes as often as required
Drive or have access to a car on a daily basis
Not be absent from home for more than four hours per day
Have their own secure garden where the puppy can go outside
Have time to devote and a lot of patience
In addition, being a police puppy is unlikely to cost you money as the police will cover all basic costs related to looking after your pet. That includes food, veterinary treatments, puppy insurance, poo bags and training equipment.
Can I become a puppy fosterer if I have children or another pet?
Interactions with children of all ages are proven to be beneficial for dogs’ development. Additionally, it’s a necessity for the puppy to have a huge desire to play with a toy and interact with people. Therefore, enthusiastic families are encouraged to enrol.
Socialising with other animals is also encouraged as long as they have a good temperament. If you already have a dog, it needs to be at least a year old before you can take on a police puppy.
How do I apply to become a police puppy foster carer?
Your local police department is the best place to start. You can contact them to find out if they’re currently accepting applications. If they're not, they may be able to put you in touch with other police departments or organisations in your area that do.
Once you’ve found a department looking for puppy foster carers, it’s time to start the official application process. You will fill out an application form and be invited for an interview – but don’t be daunted, interviews are usually quite informal and personable.
If you meet the essential criteria the next step would be a home visit to ensure that your home is safe for raising a puppy – much like a dog rescue would pay you a home visit before they give you a pet.
If all goes well and you’re approved, you'll join a waiting list and be contacted when a litter is born. You might be invited in to meet all of the puppies before one is allocated to you when it turns eight weeks. The puppy is likely to remain in your care until it’s 12-15 months old.
What happens next?
When your puppy is old enough, the police unit will evaluate its fitness for becoming an operational police dog. They will check to see if the puppy is happy in all places, has a desire to interact with a toy, is ambivalent towards other dogs and has an ability to problem-solve.
If successful, police training will commence, and the dog will move in with its handler. Your former foster puppy will be on its way to becoming a fully-fledged crime fighter.
If you're interested in the dog's progress, you will be offered updates on the heroic accomplishments your pup is making during its training and when in service.
Dogs are unique pets – apart from saving human lives by fighting crime, they can also help save canine lives. Read about how dogs help other dogs by donating blood.
What happens if my foster dog doesn’t pass the test?
A relatively high proportion of potential working dogs fail to meet the required operational standards, or are later withdrawn from service due to a lack of desired mental or physical qualities, according to a study published in Science Direct in 2015.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the dogs that don’t make the cut. For them awaits a slightly more relaxed life as a beloved pet and the likelihood of remaining with their foster family forever as they will be offered the chance to adopt the puppy permanently.