They may only have tiny paws, but these puppies mark a huge step forward for Tasmania Police.
Four German shepherd puppies will be the first police dogs to be raised and trained in Tasmania.
It will be almost a year before the police pups will be ready for their big move to join the ranks of Victoria Police.
And it will be up to a group of volunteers from within the ranks of Tasmania Police to turn the puppies into tough police dogs.
Dog trainer Ben Barnes said the cute canines have about 12 months of hard work ahead of them before they are ready to join Victoria Police.
“German shepherds are bred for it [police work] and they’re notorious as a police dog and a working dog and they love the work,” Mr Barnes said.
“Police work is very specialised and we’re asking the dog to do some pretty incredible stuff, which you’re average pet doesn’t need to do, and probably wouldn’t be safe to do in your average family household.”
Until they are big enough and have finished their training, the puppies will be fostered by volunteers from within the ranks of Tasmania Police.
Tasmania Police do not currently “employ” German shepherds, instead using other breeds as detector dogs for drugs and explosives.
The head of Tasmania’s Police dog unit, Sergeant Iain Shepherd, said they were all trained interstate.
Tasmania borrows cadaver dogs from the New South Wales for specialist searches and general purpose dogs from Victoria Police.
“It may be that in the future we look at capability, and obviously there’s benefits if that’s based in Tasmania,” Sergeant Shepherd said.
“But it’s a very expensive exercise to have a broad spectrum of dogs so often we rely on our counterparts interstate to provide those specialist capabilities.
“But certainly an option for us into the future might be to look at doing that ourselves and hence out interest in the program.”
At the last election, the Tasmanian Government pledged to fund three more police drug detection dogs.
Sergeant Shepherd said the pilot program would give officers who may be interested in becoming police dog handlers in the future a taste of what it is like, and also a chance to get to know the breed a bit better.
“There’s an enormous amount of work that goes into developing these dogs and again that’s part of our interest,” he said.
“We want to see members of the Tasmanian police community involved in developing these dogs and understanding how much work it actually takes.”
The puppies will have to undergo some pretty intense training before they are out on paw patrol.
Most will not be ready until they are between 12 months and two years old and some will not make the cut because their personality is just not suited to policing.
“It is an extremely difficult job and not all these dogs will succeed, but certainly under this program we expect them to have the very best opportunity to do so,” Sergeant Shepherd said.
Mr Barnes agreed.
“Not all of them make it because it is a difficult job,” the dog trainer said.
“It’s hard to say exactly how many will make it – you can do the best training and have the best genetics but at the end of the day it’s dictated by whether the dog wants to do it.”
The volunteer handlers will also go through the intense training sessions with their canine charges but perhaps the biggest challenge will be when it comes time to hand them over to Victoria Police.