Four trainee military dog handlers from the New Zealand Army’s 1RNZIR Infantry Support Dog Section, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Platoon, have been put through their paces at an intensive training exercise at Waiouru.
During the exercise, from 29 April to 7 May, four instructors tested the trainees, each with a military working dog, in a wide range of environments in which they could be deployed.
Instructor Lance Corporal Gabriel Dewes, second in charge of the section, said the training was important because the handlers and dogs could be deployed if necessary to track, detect and apprehend people in various situations.
“The dogs can operate independently or with visual trackers as part of a combat tracking team, or attached to an infantry section or platoon,” Lance Corporal Dewes said.
“All infantry support dogs are trained to be deployed and extracted by air, land and sea. If needed the dog teams could deploy in a non-tactical role, such as in a search and rescue, or in a tactical role, where they pursue a fleeing enemy and if necessary apprehend selected targets on command.”
All military working dogs wear similar protective kit to soldiers. They wear stab-proof inserts in their vests, special canine boots, goggles and assault muzzles, and are provided with hearing protection and tracking collars.
During urban operations each dog will wear a camera on their harness, which feeds to the monitor worn by the dog handler and/or commander, enabling them to know at all times where the dog is and in what type of situation.
“The safety and welfare of the military working dogs is paramount for us. Every dog handler completes a canine first-aid course, so they have the skills to respond in the field if their dog is injured. We also regularly practice our first-aid skills on canine mannequins,” Lance Corporal Dewes said.
All dog handlers must serve at least two years in a rifle company, acquiring infantry skills before joining the Infantry Support Dog Section. Typical postings to the unit are for two to three years.