The canine team for Canary Wharf Group are a popular bunch and that’s no surprise with characters like Del Boy and Diesel on the prowl.
But their noses have a serious job to do. They are deployed specifically for hunting out potential explosive devices, but dogs can also be trained to sniff out currency, drugs and even bed bugs.
Jed Marshall is head of canine services at ICTS UK which is contracted by Canary Wharf Group.
He said: “The dogs will be used across the estate for a variety of things like being a high visibility patrol, screening and supporting the vehicle checks.”
The question the handlers get the most from the general population is, perhaps, inevitable. Can you pet the pooches?
He said: “Just ask the handler – mostly they will say yes and will be absolutely fine, but sometimes there maybe a reason they won’t, so it’s just important to check with them.”
The team introduced ID cards – like Trump cards – for each dog last month. These provide information on the company and dog.
A recent intake of dogs were all given names from Only Fools And Horses so you can even get a set.
Dogs are recruited from various sources, but 50% come from rescue shelters, including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Dogs Trust.
Jed said: “We want the crazy, hyperactive dogs that people won’t want as a family pet as they make very good, inquisitive sniffer dogs.”
And the dogs welfare is a high priority for the team. ICTS is the only private company that Dogs Trust allow to take their dogs due to their transparent and dedicated welfare programme.
The charity is allowed to conduct spot checks on the company and each dog is given a doggy MOT each year – if they don’t pass they are retired.
Jed said: “It depends on the dog how long the training will take, but it can be around eight weeks.
“How long they will work depends as well on the MOT, but often they will have longer in retirement than working. When they retire they can often go to live with the handlers, but we have given away many dogs to Canary Wharf staff and people in our company. We’ve never had a dog destroyed.”
Throughout their careers the dogs and handlers are continuously tested.
Jed said: “We want to satisfy ourselves that we are providing a good service to the people who live and work here.
“It also challenges and motivates the dogs. They would get bored if they didn’t have challenges throughout the day.”
The day we spoke to Jed a dog and his handler had been sent to investigate an unattended package in one of the retail areas - this turned out to be a test, but the dog and handler never know if it is real or test until it is all over.
Jed said: “We speed things up significantly. If we spot a package it can be dealt with quickly and subtly by sending in the dogs or using the technology we have available, which allows business to get back to normal quickly or not be disrupted at all.”
Estate security manager for Canary Wharf Management Nick Bennett said: “It’s evident the emergency services have confidence in the dogs service, so we know when we call them for anything they will be a great asset.”
Jed’s fleet are also contracted to nuclear power stations, airports, the NEC in Birmingham and the BBC.
But what about the handlers, who are often overshadowed by their very cute companions?
They are either ex-military or ex-police and will have two working dogs living with them at one time so they can use one dog for half a shift.
Profile: Diesel and Jason Kirby
Jason Kirby and his 20-month-old springer spaniel Diesel
It was Diesel’s first week in Canary Wharf, after taking over from Jason’s now retired explosives dog, Shot.
Jason said: “He’s been doing brilliantly so far. He’s really got to grips with all the shiny surfaces about and the escalators, which can be odd for them.
“He doesn’t like being made a fuss of but I think as it’s still his first week it’s just that he’s a bit nervous.
“He is always happy with his tennis ball – it’s his beer, his wife, his Playstation – everything he could ever want is in that ball.”