Police dogs do a better job of crowd control than their human colleagues, says Constable Cora Ng from the Police Dog Unit.
Ng's canine partner Ray, a four-year-old Belgian shepherd she has handled for more than three years, was good at calming down drunken and agitated men at scenes of confrontation in Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai, where the pair from the Hong Kong Island Emergency Unit stations often find themselves.
"It gives me a sense of satisfaction when Ray, under my guidance, prevents fights or confrontations from escalating," Ng said, adding that dogs had an advantage over human officers as their loud bark could end any commotion on the street and their presence acted as a deterrent to some people.
Patrol dogs sometimes also double as drug detection dogs, searching flats or at border control checkpoints.
Having demonstrated exceptional obedience and agility, Ray was selected as a member of the unit's performance team and at yesterday's Police Dog Trial at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground.
Seven dogs vied for honours in two championships at the event, showing off their obedience and man-work skills.
The day was also a fundraiser for Operation Santa Claus - an annual event jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK which raises money for local charities - and for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Ng Koon-fai, who handles Ray's brother Rugby, says is the complete opposite to his friendly and playful brother. But she said Rugby's hot temper was not always a disadvantage as it had proved an effective deterrent to suspects in in past operations.
A seven-year-old Belgian Shepherd named Semmy, also from the Hong Kong Island Emergency Unit, stole the show and was named top dog in both obedience and man-work categories. After accepting the award, Semmy's handler Constable Cheng Lai-hung said there was no shortcut to training dogs - it needed patience.
There are a total of 117 serving police dogs in Hong Kong of which 73 are patrol dogs, while 27 work in drug detection and 17 in sniff out explosives.