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Stanley the spaniel proves that every dog has his (wash) day

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 23, 2012

  • Stanley failed to make the grade as a police sniffer dog, but now he is off to Crufts as a top agility dog. Here he is helping his owner Anne Higgins with the washing by picking out a peg Pictures: Richard Austin

  • Stanley shows off the agility which is making him a star

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Stanley the failed police sniffer dog loves to help with the washing at his Devon home.

He hands the clothes to his owner Anne Higgins, selects the pegs for the washing line and has made such progress with his training he is in the final of a Dog Agility competition at Crufts next year.

It is all a far cry from the rejected police dog who faced being put to sleep after failing the constabulary induction test.

He was rescued by dog lovers Ann and Mike Higgins, of Tiverton, both police inspectors, and will be showing off his agility to thousands of people in the world's most prestigious dog show.

It was Stanley's lack of fun and play that nearly cost him his life when he first went forward for police training to be a sniffer dog.

But with the hard work of his owners he has become an exceptionally trained super dog. Anne said: "As a pair of new and naive dog owners we did not really understand about socialisation, training and the importance of puppy hood. What we did know was this little dog needed a home and that we could not let him go to the council kennels where there was a high chance he would be put to sleep.

"So, home he came and there it started. Four years of hard work, sheer determination – on his part and ours – sleepless nights and tears."

Anne said Stanley had not been exposed to any of the normal events of the modern human world and literally "freaked" at the slightest change in his environment.

"He was frightened of sneezes, zips, screams, laughter, cats fighting, Velcro, any sort of electrical device, clapping, bells, reversing sensors, you name it, it freaked him. He had quite clearly never been allowed to explore his environment and knew no cues, except perhaps "away", which if he ever got the chance he executed to perfection," she said.

Stanley's luck nearly ran out in 2007 and 2010. First he managed to bolt down a piece of bone and got it wedged in his throat. Three years later he wolfed back a rotten chicken carcass which gave him serious food poisoning.

But in spring 2010, Stanley began his first full season of competing, was registered on the Kennel Club Activity register and began at a local competition.

Now, in 2012, at the start of his third full agility season, he has reached grade 7, won the National Rescue Dog Agility final for medium Grade 4-7 dogs and been awarded a Master of Agility title – and qualified for the agility event at next year's Crufts. Not bad for a dog who wouldn't play.

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