Grizz the pup's training 'seriously wrong' - ex police dog handler

Three new Aviation Security puppies joined the service in May 2016, including Grizz.
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Three new Aviation Security puppies joined the service in May 2016, including Grizz.

Aviation Security has hit back at claims substandard training led to a dog being shot at Auckland Airport. 

Grizz, a 10-month-old trainee aviation security dog, was shot dead after he escaped across the tarmac early on Friday, sparking more than a dozen flight delays. 

Aviation Security (Avsec) later said Grizz did not have a permanent handler, and was therefore "less responsive" than if he'd had one.

The explanation has been slammed by Joe McClunie, who has more than 20 years experience training and working with police dogs, who said the pup's lack of a fixed trainer was concerning. 

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"A dog is a pack animal, and it needs to bond; in this case with a human," McClunie said. "With police dogs it was one dog, one handler, full-stop. The bonding process was very important."

"I don't see how [Avsec] can get their dogs operational without a permanent handler. If Grizz is a product of multiple handlers, it's not working. They need to have a bloody good look at their training methods."

However, Avsec spokesman Mike Richards said the agency's dog training programme did not use a "multi-handler model". 

"Grizz was only just released from the foster programme and was waiting to be assigned to a permanent handler and attend formal training at the Police College," Richards said. "This would have occurred within the next couple of months."

He said McClunie's comments were "ill-informed" and "less than helpful," as he wasn't in possession of all the facts. 

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The border collie and german short-haired pointer cross had been close to graduating from a 10-week security school. It's not yet clear what spooked him while being transported, causing him to bolt across the airport grounds.

Airport officials gave the go-ahead for police to open fire, after handlers tried and failed to coax him for three hours. ​

Two separate investigations have been launched - one by Avsec and the other by Auckland Airport.

Police will not investigate, but will be involved in any debriefs from the other agencies. The force will also carry out an internal review, as is routine with any firearms incident. 

Richards wouldn't comment on whether Avsec's review had uncovered any answers so far, and said it would be "unlikely" that the full details would be released, as the information could compromise secure areas of the airport. 

Asked whether Auckland Airport's inquiry would be conducted independently and publicly, a spokeswoman said: "The specifics of the review are still being determined."

Meanwhile, McClunie said in his long career, he could only recall a single instance of a dog running away from its handler.

"Obviously something disturbed [Grizz] to make him run off like that. We're not dealing with a mature dog, we're dealing with a 10-month-old puppy, obviously under a lot of pressure. He would have been s... scared.

"For a dog - especially a pup - to bugger off and not come back, there's something seriously wrong."

The killing caused a global uproar, making headlines around the world, with Animal rights group SAFE called labelling it "appalling".

The estimated investment in getting a dog like Grizz to final graduation is $100,000.

 - Stuff

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