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Role you can really sink your teeth into

The role of the Military Working Dog has changed little over the years. The four-legged asset with a keen sense of smell and pin-sharp reactions, when teamed with a handler, becomes a force to be feared for any would-be intruder or drugs/arms smuggler.

Canines have served in every major conflict since the Second World War. From tracker dogs to explosives search dogs, their unique abilities have been harnessed to meet the demands of various post-war campaigns.

They are trained to sniff out a particular scent, and in the case of Protection Dogs, they are trained to bite and hold people who are deemed to be a threat. These dogs provide what’s known as a sub-lethal response to intrusion or aggression.

1st Military Working Dog Regiment, based at North Luffenham, is responsible for all the MWD teams that provide protection and detection to the British Army, wherever it is on operations and exercise around the world.

Dog Handler Lance Corporal Robert Shirtliff, of 104 Military Working Dog Squadron, is responsible for Taran the Belgian Malinois, a Protection Dog, and Ranger the yellow Labrador, an Arms and Explosives Search Dog (watch Ranger in action).


Protect and save lives

“Military working dogs as a whole are always used but protection dogs will be used on a military establishment as a deterrent,” says Robert. “As a team, we patrol inside the wire, keeping camps safe and securing vital equipment. We do routine patrols out on the ground as well.

“As a team we limit the amount of guys needed on a patrol. It frees up other members of a patrol to go and work elsewhere where they might be needed. As well as that, you might be less likely to take on a dog due to their much better senses, hearing and smell. It’s far more superior to ours.

“Taran can be quite fierce. He’s a really good deterrent. He’s good to keep people away. Taran loves to bite, that’s his drive. That’s what he loves. That’s what he works for, and what we train him for.
“Personally, I would be less likely to take on the dog that’s got 42 teeth. I’d rather take on the guys than the dog.”

Military handlers and their working dogs form a unique relationship both in barracks and when deployed. “The relationship that the handlers have with their dog is a really strong bond,” says Robert.

“Some of these dogs have to not only protect, but to save lives. We work with the dogs on a daily basis so they not only become working dogs, but also obviously your best friend. But they are working dogs and they have a responsibility, just as we do, to protect or search. So, we have to maintain their capabilities.”



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