National Training Centre For Dogs… where pooches get trained!

Tucked away from the maddening crowd of Gwalior city is the National Training Centre For Dogs (NTCD) situated on an idyllic greenbelt of Tekanpur township where pooches get trained to serve in different defence organisations/departments in India and abroad. A visit to this world-class dog training centre of Border Security Force (BSF) impressed me a lot with an insight into how skilful our four-legged friends are in the field of detective jobs. And the credit for such extraordinary achievements goes to the team of trainers/handlers at the centre operating under the command of Dr MR Popli, Officer Commanding, NTCD, BSF Tekanpur.

The long drive leading to National Training Centre For Dogs (NTCD) gave me a joyful experience of the tranquillity of the green surroundings. But my arrival at the training centre was quite a different and new experience. After meeting a team of noble BSF officers, Dr MR Popli, Officer Commanding, NTCD, BSF Tekanpur eventually introduced me to a troop of well-trained furry jawans for whom I made my purpose to travel from Delhi to Gwalior. A GSD pack leader named Vardhan among them greeted me with a bouquet in a very amicable gesture welcoming me to their training ground. Then those troopers of GSDs and Labradors led by Vardhan, namely, Prince, Basanti, Fanna, Ronaldo, Putli, Hero, Monica and Madhu demonstrated their amazing talents through some mocked drills, which I still can’t believe! This is how my day at NTCD kick started to access the 22 acres campus housing a complete combo of training facility, kennels, breeding centre, veterinary hospital and quarantine.

Training regimes…

Established in the year 1970, NTCD was set up under a firm objective to train dogs and their handlers to produce well-trained pooches for all needs in the defence departments of state and central police organisations and other law enforcement agencies of the country as well as other friendly neighbouring Asian countries. “We are imparting trainings on explosive detection, narcotic detection, search and rescue, assault, infantry patrol and guard dogs,” said Dr Popli adding that NTCD however arranges for any kind of training as per the requirement and need of the departments.

Duration of all training regimes is 24 weeks except ‘tracking’ that takes 36 weeks. “Refreshers training courses are also very important because we need to constantly maintain (refresh) efficiency, proficiency and performance of both dogs and handlers from time to time,” mentioned Dr Popli. The provision also includes some veterinary handling and management skill courses for officers or subordinate officers of police departments as well as BSF. Exclusively under these skill courses are pup rearing and management programmes.

Complete campus…

Overall activities on the campus of NTCD come under three broad categories – training, breeding and theory classes. “Our agility training site is equipped with modern equipments and accessories. We deeply focus on out-of-campus training as this exercise gives our pooches an exposure to the environment where they could be practically deployed later on in real,” explained Dr Popli adding that they carry out such training in crowded public areas like railway stations, bus stops, airports, etc. The kennels in the campus consist of isolation units, quarantine and rearing units, which are constructed in both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned accommodations. And the veterinary hospital in the campus is a full-fledged facility having a well-equipped laboratory to conduct x-ray, ultrasound and other modern diagnostic infrastructures.

Breeding centre…

Young ones jumping upon visitors for friendship would be usual scenes at the breeding centre of NTCD, which is truncated remotely from the training ground for some safety reasons. “This (breeding) centre has 10 air-conditioned kennels attached with a veterinary dispensary adjacently to handle any emergency treatments,” told Dr Popli. A tiny ‘agility’ park constructed near the centre is a ‘children’ park in real sense of the term where all small pups after 12 weeks of age play around. “Actually, this kind of outdoor activity is necessary for young pups socialising with various kinds of new sounds, touches… which we call socialisation, familiarisation, localisation and vocalisation,” explained Dr Popli.

“We monitor the behaviours and temperaments of each breed right from their puppy stages,” remarked Dr Popli. He added that if there is shy behaviour or submissive/dominance aggressions, they improve/remove at this early stage of life. Those low hurdles, mini tunnels and other play items installed in the tiny park help the puppies remove any kind of phobias of objects or obstacles. Concerning the diets of the amazing pooches, Dr Popli admitted that all dogs in the campus are fed with good quality dog foods specially formulated according to their age and size. His also mentioned the need for routine grooming done twice a day in the morning and evening for all dogs.

Beyond India…

So far so good… NTCD has trained 49 foreign handlers along with their pooches for a number of countries including Nepal, Ghana, Seychelles, Bhutan, Mauritius, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. And a total of 2,600 dogs and 4,672 handlers from both abroad and India have been trained till date by the centre. Home minister P Chidambaram who recently visited NTCD appreciated the facility saying that this is one of the best dog training centres in the world. K-9 Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) team from the US also visited NTCD this year and the team’s words of appreciation eulogised the centre for being of international standard. “ATA is now ready to extend technical collaboration and consultancy with us,” mentioned Dr Popli.

Big achievements…

A number of NTCD-trained dogs have received big applauses for their unrivalled performances in seizures of opium and other narcotic substances in India and various parts of the globe. A doggy named Tina in a Sri Lankan police department sniffed and detected high-intensity explosive implanted in a vehicle in 2006. An inspector general (IG) of Nepal Police appreciated India for providing highly intelligent detective dogs to his country with special highlights of NTCD’s dedicated efforts.

In addition, furry detectives who had been trained at NTCD did great jobs during big public events all across India. “A team of specially trained dogs was deployed during the recent XIX Commonwealth Games 2011; New Delhi for explosive detections in stadiums and transit buses,” mentioned Dr Popli.

Chosen breeds…

Breeds who are currently undergoing training at NTCD are predominantly GSDs, Labradors and rarely some Dobermans. “GSDs and Labradors are proven breeds for explosive and narcotic detections. Every defence department opted for these two breeds for such activities,” said Dr Popli. And he added, “We are however in the process/planning of introducing Cocker Spaniels, English Springer-Spaniel and Beagles for the jobs because these breeds have advantages of their sizes in activities to penetrate all narrow corners during detection jobs.” He further explained that it should be ensured that sniffing dogs leave not even an inch of the searched areas whether it is an aircraft or a sport stadium.

Godly tasks…

In connection with the unique characteristics of the furry detectives, Dr Popli remarked that God has given special tasks to our four-legged creatures to perform holy jobs that we human beings cannot do. “When they detect an explosive, it saves thousands of human lives,” he reasoned, signifying the contributions of dogs in the welfare of mankind. He added that NTCD is given assignments to take care of those furry angels in directing them towards the right directions.

“Dogs have very high power of sense, super detection power and peculiar supremacy of vision,” explained Dr Popli. Of course, when man can see an angle of 180o, dogs could do it upto 270o. Dogs can detect any unusual movements in crowded public areas and they are born with supernatural capability to hear pin drop sound. “In this respect, our agility trainings are carried out in such a manner that it could build up confidence in dogs to carry on all their special powers without fear or any complex,” added Dr Popli.

Future vision…

NTCD is the only established and fully developed training centre in India commanded by a veterinary officer and having vets as training and administrative officers as well. The centre foresees a broader prospect to magnify the overall training programmes and infrastructure of the centre. Dr Popli, who is honoured with President’s Police Meritorious Medal Awards presented by Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh, feels that NTCD will surface at a global platform soon. He mentioned that a Hydro Therapy Centre in an extended area and new technologies like dog-mounted video cameras will soon be some added features at NTCD!

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