Arktis, Cora, Yule and Caesar - they might sound like they are ready to go into battle, but these four-legged crime fighters are just starting out on their journey to fully-fledged police dogs.

The young crime fighters are getting some basic training before the formal stuff starts.

The puppies - and their foster parents - have been taking part in a workshop in Whangarei this week focused on their initial training.

Head of the Northland Police dog section sergeant Bruce McLeod said the puppies are aged between 14 to 16 weeks old.


Three of the puppies are fostered by police officers, and the fourth is with one of Northland's handlers as it will replace his current one.

Mr McLeod said the puppies stay in their foster homes until they are 9 months old, when they are allocated out to a handler to start their formal training as a patrol dog.

He said yesterday's exercises were part of a two-day workshop which is being delivered all over the country.

"It's teaching the people who are fostering our police puppies how we want to move forward."

Mr McLeod said the participants were learning how to introduce and progress the puppies' initial training.

He said the group had been working on marker training and targeting with the puppies.

"We're trying to promote quiet and focused dogs."

Mr McLeod said there is a lot of positive reinforcement with the use of food and the clicker.

The clicker marks the correct behaviour at that moment in time.

For example, the handler or foster parent needs eye contact with the dog, to engage it. The correct behaviour is marked with a click and rewarded with a piece of food.

One of the activities to teach the dog targeting is to place a piece of food in a bowl in front of the dog, which is being held back by its handler or foster parent.

Mr McLeod said when the dog is sitting calmly and focused on the bowl - it is released and the food is its reward.

He said this exercise is teaching the dog to look forward and be focused.

Mr McLeod said what the puppies learn in these first months is the basis for their training.

There is no guarantee the puppies will make it through the formal training.

The workshop was attended by four of Northland's dog handlers and 10 police officers who are either fostering a puppy or have shown an interest in becoming a dog handler.