Interviewed on 1 October 2021
Garda Catherine Bartley joined An Garda Síochána in 1987 and retired in 2019, having worked in various sections of the force, latterly the Dog Unit, where she spent many years and became well known for her work the Garda dogs. Catherine was interviewed for the project on 1st October 2021. Here, Catherine speaks about the methods for training Garda dogs.
JOHN O’BRIEN (INTERVEIWER): Catherine, I was just wondering how a dog actually learns to distinguish a scent, and I know you mentioned to me when we we’re talking that a dog can pick up a particular scent, but when you are training them to recognise a scent, you use a certain procedure and you use command words. Just give us a short little idea of what you do when you start with this dog who has who is being trained, and just maybe a little idea for our listeners as to how that operates. How are they trained?
MS. BARTLEY: Well, basically the main thing you need with a dog, no matter what you’re going to do with him, is that he has a big retrieve drive. So, all the reward is, is the ball. So everything they do is actually for the ball. And you introduce the scent along with the ball first, and when they, they hit on the scent, they get the ball. So, sorry
MR. O’BRIEN: Okay. So we we’re talking about actually the reward, which is a wonderfully simple reward, is the ball. So when they’d do their retrieving bit, the ball is the reward, that they get the ball and that makes them happy.
MS. BARTLEY: The ball, and it is the game, and they get over excited, but you have to ponce around like an idiot as well, screaming that he’s after getting the ball, and… Yes. And, ehm, everyone goes home happy then because we’re after finding the drugs and the dog has got his ball.
MR. O’BRIEN: Isn’t that wonderfully, wonderfully simple. For a tracker, what’s the motivation? Because obviously it is different.
MS. BARTLEY: It’s the ball as well. Yeah. And the dogs who do the man work. Their actual reward for biting somebody, because it is a game we don’t want aggressive dogs. We want controlled aggression. So, Milo, for instance, my German Shepherd, he is great with kids, he’s very even tempered, he will do anything for the ball. You know. He’s going around all the time. He’s presenting the ball to me because he wants to have a game with me. So that’s what you use. You’re using the dog’s natural instinct for your benefit. For the use.
MR. O’BRIEN: For the human value