Canine Guardians: Harnessing Dogs for Effective Security Measures

In an age where security concerns have evolved to match the complexities of the modern world, innovative approaches are essential to safeguard lives and property. Among the most remarkable and time-tested solutions is the utilisation of dogs in security roles. Approximately 5000 security dogs are employed in the UK security sector. Dogs have long been revered for their loyalty, intelligence, and extraordinary sensory abilities.

Beyond the traditional roles of security personnel, these four-legged partners contribute remarkably to deterrence, detection, and incident response. A prime example of the successful integration of dogs into security protocols can be witnessed at First Response Group, which offers a leading canine security service.

James Fee, Director at First Response Group, explores the multifaceted ways in which dogs can be harnessed for security purposes, highlighting their roles in diverse sectors and the advantages they bring to the table.

How dogs can be utilised in security

Detection dogs possess an uncanny sense of smell, capable of detecting even the faintest of scents. This innate ability has led to their use in detecting contraband substances such as drugs and explosives at airports, border crossings, and events. Their accuracy in identifying hidden threats has proven to be a game-changer in preventing the transportation of dangerous materials.

Protection dogs also have an inherent protective instinct that can be harnessed in security patrol and surveillance. Trained dogs can accompany security personnel, patrolling large areas, and providing an added layer of deterrence against potential intruders or criminals. Their acute senses act as an early warning system, alerting handlers to suspicious activities.

In situations where large crowds gather, maintaining order and security can be challenging. Our accredited trained canines, can help manage crowds by their mere presence, calming potentially volatile situations and deterring unruly behaviour.

In security roles, dogs are trained in different disciplines to protect or search to deter threats. Our canines are used by security professionals and are trained to engage threats while avoiding unnecessary harm to individuals following the British standard BS8517- 1 or 2.

Advantages of Canine Security

Dogs’ sense of smell and hearing far surpass human capabilities. As a force multiplier one dog can replace four patrolling security officers. Their ability to detect hidden or concealed items, as well as sense changes in the environment, gives them a unique edge in security operations making them exceptional at detecting threats that may go unnoticed by humans or conventional security systems.

Dogs are agile and quick, making them ideal for rapid response situations. They can quickly cover ground, navigate challenging terrain, and adapt to changing circumstances, which is critical in dynamic security scenarios.

When Canine Security Would be Used

The effectiveness of canine patrols lies not only in their capabilities but also in the careful consideration of their appearance and interactions with the public; there is an importance of striking a balance between visual deterrence and public comfort. Security professionals are tasked with selecting from recognised canine breeds and outfits for their handlers to match the context of their patrol environments.

Canine security is highly effective in monitoring and patrolling large sites and expansive areas, such as industrial complexes, warehouses, and open spaces. The enhanced mobility and senses of trained canines enable them to cover large grounds efficiently.

Situations that pose a significant threat to security officers demand specialised measures. Canine security excels in providing immediate response and deterrence in scenarios where the risk to officers is elevated as a force multiplier.

Properties with intricate layouts, multiple access points, and hidden spaces can be challenging to secure with traditional methods. Canine security offers an advantage in navigating such complex environments. Canines are adept at detecting and apprehending intruders, making them a valuable asset in preventing unauthorised access.

When security officer teams are outnumbered, deploying an equivalent number of officers may be cost-prohibitive. Canines can fill this gap by covering more ground efficiently and reducing the need for excessive human personnel.

The success of canine patrols relies on the right handler-dog partnership. Dog handlers require specific qualities, including the right disposition, physical stamina, and the ability to interact positively with the public. The handlers are not just responsible for the dogs’ training and deployment but also their overall well-being, including healthcare needs. This partnership offers unique opportunities for growth and job enrichment within security teams, as officers can expand their skill set while contributing to enhanced security measures.

Dogs in the Field: FRG’s Experience

FRG has had great success with using dogs in the field. One area dogs excel is the removal and prevention of unauthorised encampments. From vacant property to supermarket car parks, to open land, dogs can have an immediate impact on helping with the eviction process. The presence of dogs often deescalates any potential violence and is much more effective than lone human officers. Dogs can also help stop more trespassers gaining access to sites or entering any vulnerable buildings to claim squatters’ rights, blockading access points and also play an important role in protecting the public.

It is also important to keep dogs onsite for a period after trespassers have left as newly vacated sites are extremely vulnerable to re-occupation, as those setting up unauthorised camps look for new locations and often return to where they have recently been evicted. FRG’s site risk assessment advises on what protection level is required to ensure sites are fully protected to minimise the threat from re-occupation.

Technology and dogs also work hand in hand, with CCTV and dogs complementing each other. On smaller sites, CCTV cameras can detect intrusions and control rooms can then deploy dogs to investigate and locate the intruder. On larger sites, CCTV and dog teams are often both deployed together to provide an instant response to all incidents and ensuring sites remain secure.

Other examples where we have had success in using dogs include stopping an illegal rave which could have resulted in around £100,000 of damage. FRG was contracted to secure approximately 40,000 square feet of vacant office and warehouse space situated within a small industrial estate. Squatters successfully infiltrated the primary building and laid claim to certain portions of the property, asserting squatter’s rights. It was suspected that they intended to host an illegal rave on the premises. CCTV detected the intrusion and swift action coupled with an in-depth understanding of the legal framework around squatters rights allowed both FRG and the Managing Agents to regain control of the site mere hours after the squatters’ arrival, securing entry points and then using dogs to help remove the squatters, ensuring no harm befell the structure., Had the illegal rave transpired, the ensuing damage and subsequent cleanup could have triggered a very large insurance claim.

FRG  is committed to leading industry best practice and only employs SIA licensed and accredited dog handlers to control standards and ensure animal welfare in canine security. This is not the case for all security companies; In one instance, FRG was called to assist at a property where security services on-site were originally provided by another supplier, consisting of one dog handler unit. Trespassers breached the premises, causing damage and posing a significant risk of fly-tipping. FRG was contacted late at night by the site insurer who expressed concerns regarding the impact of the unauthorized encampment and questioned the incumbent security provider’s ability to handle the situation effectively. Within a span of 2 hours, FRG deployed dog handler teams to the site, executing a comprehensive sweep. The incumbent security provider’s on-site dog handler showed they were not following guidelines or looking out for the health of the dog as the dog was off lead and therefore not under control, the dog was in a physically compromised state and unfit for duty, and the handler lacked the necessary SIA licence and was not wearing a uniform.

In conclusion, in the realm of security, dogs have proven time and again that their innate qualities, coupled with thorough training, can significantly enhance protective measures across the security sector. From detecting threats and contraband to providing support, their role is unparalleled. The sensory superiority, non-intrusive nature, rapid response, adaptability, and cost-effectiveness of canine security make them indispensable assets. Our experience is that dogs provide an invaluable edge in security from evictions to intruder detection to removal of trespassers. It’s essential to recognise the irreplaceable qualities that dogs bring to security operations, forging a harmonious partnership between humans and the innate abilities of our loyal four-legged companions.

About the Author: Michael O'Sullivan