THEY may have employed a cat to tackle the rodent infestation at Number 10 Downing Street, but one Doncaster resident thinks staff there are barking up the wrong tree.
Instead of a feline predator, Alan Johnson reckons his rather special dog might be the answer.
That’s because his three-year-old springer spaniel, Archie, is Britain’s first mouse detection dog.
The deadly duo have been trained by UK detection company Wagtail UK in North Wales for the pest control section of UK property management firm Mitie.
Wagtail’s head of training, Louise Wilson, said: “Mice are not that hard to find, the trick is to find out how and where they are getting into a building, whether it’s an office, a warehouse, a supermarket or a cinema.
“That was the challenge for us and it has taken us over a year to train Archie compared to the three months it normally takes to train a dog to detect something.
“It has been really complicated and very intensive and has taken a lot of planning but now Archie is trained and is ready to go out in the field with his handler.”
Alan, aged 33, from Sprotbrough, works for Mitie and is looking forward to the new challenge.
“I love dogs. I’ve got four at home and I do a bit of shooting and beating at weekends,” he said. “When the company came up with the idea of training a dog to catch mice and they asked me to take it on I leapt at the chance and I’ve really enjoyed it.
“Wagtail have been fantastic and a lot of what they’ve done has been about training me to be able to work the dog.
“We’re trying to pinpoint the places where mice are most active, where they are getting into a building or area and where they are nesting, then we can concentrate our efforts in those places.
“That means we will be more efficient, both in the time we take to sort out the problem and in using resources and that’s good for us and for the client.”
Alan, who has been with Mitie for seven years, reckons he’s the only person using a mouse detection dog in the UK.
“I’m pretty unique in that respect. It’s a role that will take me all over the country and Archie will be staying at home with me.
“He’s a lovely dog, very excitable but that’s what you need for this sort of work. Luckily my wife, Emma, and my little girl, Heather, both love dogs too and I’m sure he’ll soon be part of the family.”
Louise said they used cameras to study the mice used to train Archie.
Wagtail UK was founded by ex-RAF police dog handler Collin Singer in 2003.
The firm trains dogs for a range of duties, including work with the UK Border Agency searching for immigrants at the Channel ports of Northern France.
Louise said: “I studied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Chester University and I see huge potential for the use of dogs in this field because they are able to find animals in a non-invasive way.
“It is easy to find out mice are in your property but not so easy to find out how they’re getting in - that’s the key to solving your problem.”