Police dogs are now able to sire puppies without leaving the beat. The Met is employing an artificial insemination programme to overcome the scarcity of of stud dogs.

Ashley, a nine-year-old German Shepherd, became the first proud father under the project carried out at the Metropolitan Police Dog Training School in Keston, Kent, when his girlfriend Mollie gave birth to a litter of nine.

The absent father was never allowed to leave his patch in north-west London because his time is so valuable.

Inspector Keith MacKenzie, chief instructor at the school, said: 'The work of the dogs and their handlers is so valuable that we were finding it difficult to get the stud dogs to the school for a week to maintain our breeding programme of 14 litters a year. That meant we had to look elsewhere.'

The school - the largest of its kind in Europe - now hopes to breed police dogs for forces around Britain.

'This will supplement our natural breeding programme, which will continue,' Mr MacKenzie added.

So far, forces in the West Midlands, West Mercia, Nottingham and Northern Ireland have showed an interest.

Meanwhile, Ashley's pups will soon follow in their father's pawprints, joining the 296 general service dogs and 27 search dogs already used by the Metropolitan Police.