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NZ Defence Force's First Explosive Detection Dogs Graduate

Dog handler
Corporal Mark Barker and Cougar.
Dog handler Corporal Mark Barker and Cougar.

Media Release

7 November 2012

NZ Defence Force's First Explosive Detection Dogs Graduate

A new developing NZ Defence Force capability will see explosive detection dog teams broaden existing force protection measures, providing support to overseas operations, exercises and taskings in New Zealand.

Four NZ Defence Force dog handlers and five dogs graduated today from the Defence Force’s first explosive detection dog course. The 12 week long course was run with the assistance from the New Zealand Police Dog Training Centre.

The explosive detection dogs have been trained to detect and indicate the presence of a number of explosive odours, including commercial, military and home made explosive mixes.

Dog handler Sapper
Liam Harris with Xia, detecting hidden explosives as part of

Dog handler Sapper Liam Harris with Xia, detecting hidden explosives as part of training.

Some of the graduating team are expected to deploy shortly to support operations in Afghanistan, and some of the team will be supporting Exercise Kiwi Koru, currently taking place in New Zealand.

In Afghanistan, the dog teams will carry out search and detect tasks and support patrols, assist with vehicle and compound searches and monitor camp access points.

The NZ Defence Force identified an operational requirement for the development of explosive detection military dogs to support our personnel on operations and exercises, says Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Dave Gawn.

“As the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threat has evolved, so has our need to provide broader search and detect capabilities to ensure optimum force protection for personnel.

“Our explosive detection dog teams will be one of many search and detect measures that provides force protection to our personnel.

“Explosive detection military working dogs are proven to save lives and are widely used by our NATO partners. They are an invaluable asset, and search and detect capability. No man-made technology can effectively replicate a dog’s sense of smell which is said to be a thousand times more sensitive than humans.”

Defence Force dog
handlers with their dogs, graduate from NZ Defence Force's
first explosive detection dog course.

Defence Force dog handlers with their dogs, graduate from NZ Defence Force's first explosive detection dog course.

Both dogs and handlers underwent a robust selection process. While 12 dogs started the course, only the best five canines are graduating – two German Shepherds, a Cocker Spaniel, a Labrador and a Collie Cross. Two of the dogs were sourced from the NZ Police Dog Training breeding programme, with the others sourced from the Australian Customs breeding programme, NZ Aviation security and NZ Police.

Each handler will be paired with a dog, leaving one dog as a reserve. The dog handlers have been trained to handle their dogs to ensure they conduct searches in a safe manner, and understand the pre-cursers and indications when their dog detects an explosive substance. The handlers have also been trained to maintain the health and welfare of their animal, from feeding, grooming, and exercise, to kennel area maintenance and basic veterinary skills.

The NZ Police Dog Training Centre supported the NZ Defence Force with the course development, and provided instructional support, facilities and resources throughout the course.

The NZ Defence Force has also been liaising with Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to ensure the appropriate animal welfare requirements are met.


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