Police dog Gruff one of the best
Gruff the Nelson police dog has come within a whisker of becoming New Zealand's top dog.
But he had to settle for second place at the national police dog trials, and a nice piece of blade steak for his efforts.
The five year-old german shepherd and his handler, Senior Constable Pete Greenland, of Nelson, repeated their placing at the South Island trials in April at which they also placed second, and earned themselves a spot in the recent national contest held at Trentham.
Greenland is among two dog handlers in Nelson Bays police and five in the wider Tasman policing district, which covers the top of the South Island and the West Coast.
The three-day national competition among 12 police dog handlers from around the country is not only a contest but a way of keeping handlers and dogs up to date with their training.
The dogs have to complete a series of challenges to prove they can retrieve objects and bring them to the handlers, sit and stay for three minutes and lie down and stay for 10 minutes, enter and search a building then bark when they find a person hiding inside, track a person through bush and take down a person on command.
A dog handler must be fit enough to keep up with the dog, have a love of dogs and a close bond with their animal.
Gruff and Greenland have been a team for only 15 months, after Greenland moved to Nelson from Christchurch, where he had also been a dog handler.
It's a role he has held for 16 years, but it took him six years to decide it was a police career path he wanted to follow. He has not looked back since.
"It's the best job in the police - absolutely. Just being able to work with animals."
Greenland grew up in Wellington with a series of family pets, including a range of dogs from a bull mastiff, spaniels and a corgi. He said being a police dog handler was a sought-after role in the police, which he found his way into by fostering dogs for the police section, then volunteering his time to help train them.
He said the bond between a police dog and its handler was based on total trust.
"You're there for the dog and vice versa. I have the utmost respect for these dogs and what they can do. They're at the sharp end of policing," Greenland said.
He said the german shepherd breed was used throughout the world in policing for its tracking ability, agility and aggression. The New Zealand police were "very fussy about the bloodline" and Gruff was bred specially at Trentham as a police dog.
Greenland said police dogs at home were treated as part of the family.
"We put so much time and effort into them, we treat them like kids."
He said Gruff was none the wiser after his efforts at the nationals, but he did enjoy the small steak treat afterwards.
The Nelson Mail