Could your dog save lives sniffing out bombs in Afghanistan?

One energetic two year old border collie, Benji, is training to swap life in South Wales to go to Afghanistan and save lives by sniffing out bombs.

Benji’s family in South Wales struggled to cope with his seemingly limitless energy so Benji and four other dogs are being trained to search buildings, roads and vehicles for the crude explosive IED bombs that have killed so many innocent people over the last eight years.

Cardiff based security firm Malpeet K9 provides bomb-search dogs and put out an appeal in the Echo for new dogs.

The dogs will work with private companies working with coalition forces in Afghanistan. The US Army provides vet support for the dogs with no expenses spared whilst they are in Afghanistan.

Malpeet K9 managing director, 41 year old Simon Mallin told the media they struggle to keep up with demand due to the threat of the explosives but only the best dogs will make the grade, a grade which Benji proved he could meet following just a few days training.

Simon said:

“They have either got it or they haven’t and I have to make sure the dogs are 100% because guys’ lives depend on them.”

Benji and three spaniels should be ready for work by the end of 2009; they are currently in their third week’s training.

Tony Yeo is a senior instructor with Malpeet K9 and said:

“I want a dog that will look for a ball, but not just any dog. I want a dog that will look for a ball with an intensity in his eyes.”

All the training is based around searching for a ball in a vehicle or a building and eventually a small level of explosive is placed in the ball so the dogs learn to follow the scent of explosive. Later, the ball is taken away and the dogs must learn to still follow that scent for the ball and praise as a reward.

When they’re in the field, Simon says the dogs search vehicles, roads and buildings believing they are looking for their ball, but when they find the explosive scent they recognise, they are trained to react ‘passively’, in other words to lie or sit still but not to interfere with the bomb. The dog handler calls them back and they are rewarded with the ball.

Simon went on to say:

“It’s all fun. Even out there when they are doing it for real they think it’s a game and they are just looking for their ball.”

The Echo actually visited the Malpeet K9 training centre last week where Tony showed how Benji could already enter an area and start to search following a verbal comment and find the location in seconds.

Simon said: “All of the dogs we train have natural ability – their breeds were originally used as working dogs or gun dogs anyway – and we are just harnessing that.”

Malpeet K9 still requires suitable dogs for training but also training locations, such as scrap yards or empty shops and offices. To help, contact Malpeet K9 Security’s procurement officer Stu Phillips on 07898 247172.