The Service Dog of the Year Champion Coat went to the highest scoring competitor,
Neil Yates from HMP Woodhill
On the 10th July 2004 at Newbold Revel Prison Service Training College in Rugby the prestigious Service Dog of the Year competition took place. It started early, as it was the biggest get together of service dogs for competition in the country.
The competition this year saw 31 handlers and their dogs from all services get together to compete in 6 different disciplines, with the top prize of Service Dog of the Year up for grabs.
The services this year consisted of handlers from the British Transport Police, Atomic Energy Police, Police Handlers from Bedford & the West Midlands, RAF, Army, Military Provost Guard, Prison Service, Northern Ireland Prison Service, Customs & Excise and civilian Security Dog users.
The disciplines judged were Agility where the dogs had to negotiate a series of jumps, "A" frames and tunnels all under control and the watchful eye of the judge Martin Grime of South Yorkshire police training school. A round of heal work and obedience both on and off the lead where the dog had to walk and run close to the handler with sharp turns and stops, speak on command at a distance and retrieve an article thrown out by the handler, this was a tight round with a lot of excellent shows from the dogs and handlers.
Then came everybody’s favourite, the man work! Upon being challenged by the handler "two" suspects made a run for it across Newbold’s beautiful grounds with a swag bag, when the challenge was ignored the dog was released and gave chase. The first challenge for the dog was when one of the suspects gives up and stops running, (the dog should ignore the standing man and continue to chase the one still trying to get away) luckily for the suspect that gave up, most of the dogs remembered!
Then just before the dog catches the suspect the swag bag is thrown away to try and put the dog off, after being apprehended and searched for weapons the suspects are handed over to the steward, the handler and dog are then attacked by a man with a stick and a man with a gun, these the dog stops with a bite while the handler disarms them, every dog showed just how much they enjoyed their work and the crowd were at times on their feet and applause was abundant.
Other disciplines on the day were, searching for property, searching for explosives and a search for drugs. To win the Service Dog of the year trophy you needed to have the highest combined score in the Agility, Obedience & Manwork.
The Prison Service came up trumps on the day by winning every category in the competition. The Drug Trophy went to Chris Statham of the HMP North West area search team. The Property Search Trophy went to Billy Phillips from the Northern Ireland prison service. The Explosives Trophy went to Dave Fletcher of HMP Woodhill and the winner of The Service Dog of the Year Champion Coat and the highest scoring competitor was Neil Yates also from HMP Woodhill, the first handler ever to win the championship twice with two different dogs as well as the Service Dog Drug Championship.