RAF Police Dog Diva in her handler's arms

RAF Police Dog Demo Team Gets Ready For Crufts

Cute, and unpredictable. This year's RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team has been practising for its big day in Birmingham.

RAF Police Dog Diva in her handler's arms

Seven eager faces gazed up at their handlers, waiting for the next command. It was a windy morning at RAF Henlow, and practice was underway for this incarnation of the RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team's first appearance at Crufts.

Of the dogs training, only six are going to be performing in Birmingham at the event that calls itself the World's Greatest Dog Show.

Iwan, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois, may have been showing his prowess in the weave on the practice field - and he starred in last year's Military Dog trials - but sadly won't join his four-legged friends in the arena at the NEC at the weekend.

When asked why, his handler said:

"He's a bit snappy, and tends to bark."

RAF Police Dog Iwan - sadly not appearing at Crufts this year - bosses the weave

Corporal Robin "Toby" Taylor, based at Brize Norton, is leading the team. This will be his second year at Crufts, having gone last year as part of the RAF 100 team.

He is partnered with his own dog Guszti, a proud-looking black-and-white Dutch Herder. They have worked together for around six months. Toby said:

"The experience from last year has helped a lot. We've had to start right from the beginning, getting the dogs to run up a line, do the weave, teaching all sorts of tricks."

"Guszti is quite laid-back; he can be a bit lazy sometimes, but he is good at what he does."

RAF Police Dog Guszti and Cpl Toby Taylor
Cpl Toby Taylor and Guszti pose for the camera

How much effort does it take to get these working dogs to perform flawlessly in a noisy arena?

Some of the pack have taken to their duties naturally but some, like beige Labrador Belfast, have needed a bit more coaxing.

The Arms and Explosives dog, described by his handler as "full of energy and always happy," also has to be bribed with cheese.

RAF Police Dog Belfast - Crufts Demonstration Team 2019
RAF Police Dog Belfast eagerly watches a food-filled kong

Another Belgian Malinois, Xantos, has been getting used to a new handler.

When the team came together for the first time at the end of January, he was paired with Corporal Jess Bremner.

Cpl Bremner said: "The first week with Xantos was all over the place, as we started to bond with each other. But we're there now, and we're getting on well."

"Xantos is super cuddly, and loves attention."

"Hopefully he will come back with me, so we can carry on the bond we've built for the other demonstrations this year. Otherwise, I will have to take trips to visit him."

Cpl Jess Bremner and Xantos
Xantos looks lovingly at his handler, Cpl Jess Bremner

RAF Police dog Diva, at six, is the oldest hound on the side. The Belgian Malinois, who isn't exactly small, thinks nothing of springing up lightly into her handler's arms.

Diva takes the leap of faith

The team is completed by German Shepherd Nina (Police Dog) and black Labrador Ninja (Drugs Detection Dog).

RAF Police Dog Nina
RAF Police Dog Ninja

They will perform at Crufts on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 March 2019.

RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team Crufts 2019
L-R: Nina & Alex, Belfast & Hannah, Diva & Adam, Guszti & Toby, Ninja & Andy, Xantos & Jess, Iwan & Tom