Salute to Service Dogs – Indeed the Nation’s Pride!

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Garima Singhal and Boo
The feeling of safety when you see an officer in uniform is something that we all have felt. But today we’re saluting our special heroes, who might not wear a uniform but are brave officers! Talking about the unparalleled support that Service Dogs provide and how they use their powerful senses, intelligence, and understanding to save lives and be the brave hearts – indeed the nation’s pride. –by Garima Singhal

It’s a long journey to become the best
There are various training schools all over the world that help train dogs to become guide dogs and service dogs. A German doctor, Gerhard Stalling opened the world’s first guide dog school in 1916. The dogs helped blind war veterans who returned home from World War 1 to help with their mobility. Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a UK-based charity that was founded 1982. They train dogs to alert their hearing impaired or deaf pet parents to different sounds by touching their foot with their paw or nudging them with their nose. Dogs for the Disabled, founded in 1988, were the first charity to train mobility assistance dogs for physically disabled adults.

The Glorious History of Service Dogs
European police forces worked with Bloodhounds from as early as the 18th century. It wasn’t until World War I that countries like Belgium and Germany formalised the training process and started having dogs for specific tasks, such as guard duty. German army relied heavily on the use of German Shepherds as ambulance and messenger dogs. The practice continued through World War II. Soldiers returning home brought news of the well-trained dogs at work by both sides of the conflict. Soon K9 programmes started all over Europe. Police dogs gained a foothold in the United States till the 1970s. Today, police dogs are recognised as a vital part of law enforcement, and dogs in police and military forces have grown manifolds in the last five years.

Canine Squads – Helping Humans Unconditionally!
A police dog is a dog who is specifically trained to assist police and other law enforcement personnel. Their duties include searching or sniffing out drugs, explosives and weapons, locating missing people, find crime scene evidence and attacking people targeted by the police. Police dogs must remember both verbal and hand cues given to them by the handler. The most common breeds for police and military work are German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Blood Hounds, and Labradors Canine or K9 (a homophone of the word canine) units were established as early as the 14th century in France. Bloodhounds in Scotland were known as Slough dogs. In the 19th century, growing population led to frequent crimes, not easily managed by the existing law enforcement units and private associations as well as canine units were used to aid in suppressing criminal activities. One of the first attempts to have canines in policing was in 1889 by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police of London, Sir Charles Warren, who apprehended the serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Police in Ghent, Belgium had first organised police service dog programme in 1899. From there, the practice spread to various other countries of Europe.

Service Dogs – The Unsung Canine Heroes
Six-year-old Babu is no stranger to working in tough conditions and helping his handler track scents for explosives, arms and ammunitions, and tracing lost persons. Babu, gold medalist in the competition event of the 61st All India Police Duty Meet is a Labrador, the star performer of the Delhi Police force. Leaping and sniffing, he completes his tasks, with precision and focus, like there is no one else around, and it is this dedication to his work that has earned him name and fame. He beats previous years rank holders, as well as dogs from police departments of other states. ‘He has trained hard for this event’, says his handler Pawan Kumar, adding that there has been strict attention to sniffer training with no regard to distractions, even with food, and he has excelled a thousand times.

Despite his hard work and training, he is just like any other dog. He loves to play and gambol about, adores being the center of attention and even loves posing for photos. He is the kind of dog you would like to hang out with. But when he is at work, all his attention is on the task at hand and he puts all his energy into it.

There is a series of tasks that Babu had to complete and ace before winning his gold medal. These include the obedience test, refusal of food, hurdle, seek and find, scent discrimination, scent identification and tracking on lead. Babu was a star on all of his tasks, which speaks to the nature of his training and the in depth obedience.

Training of a canine squad dog
A dog needs to pass a basic obedience course before being considered to join the police department. They must be able to obey commands given their handler without hesitation and irrespective of distractions. This allows the officer to have complete control over their dog, even in situations of extreme strife.

Dogs in law enforcement are trained to be either a ‘single purpose’ or a ‘dual purpose’ dog. Single purpose dogs are used primarily for backup, personal protection and tracking. Dual-purpose dogs are more commonly trained. They do everything that a single purpose dog does, and also detect narcotic or explosives.

A Man’s Best Friend can help us in so many ways. They use their intelligence and strong senses to guide us and make lives easier, so a big salute to the dedication and hard work of these service dogs.

Canine Superstars who deserve all the Praise

Asha – Bengali Beauty winning hearts
Barrackpore is the West Bengal Police’s elite dog training academy. Asha is the star performer at the academy. She performs the drill flawlessly and knows that Marie biscuits are waiting for her if she obeys her handler. She is the first Indian breed to become a police dog, and to be trained to sniff out explosives for the West Bengal Police. Her training is over and she is waiting for her posting to serve the nation.
 
Thenga – ‘Desi’rable and Reliable
Thenga is a mongrel, or an Indian pariah dog — the first to be officially recruited by the Uttarakhand government to help police detect explosives and narcotics and track missing persons. He behaves extraordinary well and they understands all the commands his handler has taught him.
 

Golden Retrievers Power Squad inducted in Delhi Police

In 2019 Delhi Police had inducted five Golden Retrievers – Congo, Zendra, Krisi, Kosbi, and Kamat. The breed is known for his intelligence and they have been the best service dogs.
 
(Garima Singhal is a behaviourist, neurobiologist, school teacher and a long-term pet parent).

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