Dogs are known as a man’s best friend, our closest companions, our protectors and even lifesavers. Now more than ever dogs are helpful with protecting animals too. With a good dose of intelligence, a fantastic sense of smell and brilliant hearing, dogs such as the German Shepard and Belgian Malinois to name a few are perfect for challenges such as Anti Poaching It is with this in mind that dogs have been introduced and become a force to be reckoned with in the Anti poaching teams.
Gondwana recently hosted an Anti poaching Canine school workshop at Camp Charleston and we had the privilege of witnessing some of the training first hand.
There are many aspects to training an Anti Poaching Dog. Each of these aspects run parallel and the levels of training increase as the dog shows its capacity to do the activities. The training is made up of the following –
The ball work is all about creating a drive for the ball. This teaches the dog to be totally focused on the ball.
Tracking work can be done in two ways . The first tracking activity involves a person walking off as a criminal, with a bite sleeve. When the “criminal” is out of sight, the dog is walked to find the suspect. The second activity involves a person walking off with a ball. The ball is then hidden and the dog is sent to find it. At first the ball is dropped in sight of the dog, but with time the ball is hidden further and further away. This encourages the dog to sniff the ground to try and find its ball. The next stage of the tracking teaching involves tracking in a square. A square of 60m2 is laid out. A person walks out into the square and the dogs have to follow the scent of exactly where the person walked. Tracks can overlap each other and the idea is that the dogs have to follow the track based on its age. With experience dogs can pick up tracks from hours to days ago based on the atmospheric conditions.
This involves play and teaches them to go over, under and in obstacles so they are challenged to operate out of their comfort zones. This training is important as it gives them the confidence to overcome new obstacles when out tracking.
Biting begins with a soft toy and then progresses onto a biting sleeve.
The handlers also learnt how to care for a dog by bathing them, brushing them and learning about the different vaccinations required.
The course was a great success and bonds were made between the Anti Poaching soldiers and a man’s best friend his dog!
Text: Nadine Clarke
Photographs: Raquel de Castro Maia