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NPA defines an MDD as a dog trained to detect target substances, mines, certain types and quantities of explosives, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and fragments of mines and UXO, above and below the surface of the ground. The quality of work and successful deployment of the NPA GTC`s MDD’s in mine clearance operations are based on intensive training, testing and analysis performed on a strict and continuous basis.As a result, the capacity, ability and accuracy of MDD’s deployed in operational work can be predicted.The psycho physical characteristics of the selected dogs, a modern and inventive imprinting methodology, and an intense physical-endurance training programme are key elements of the training style. Health care and hygiene, medical follow-up and specialized dietary needs for each dog are also emphasized.

Five key principles underpin the training of MDDs at the School:

Principle One: emphasis on hunting behavior;

Principle Two: pressure-search;

Principle Three: high level of difficulty in detection training; and

Principle Four: unpredictability

Principle Five: consistency


Principle one: Emphasis on hunting behaviour

The dog’s natural hunting instinct/ pray drive is stimulated and developed. Hunting for the pray and intense play fight is incorporated into the training model through exercises aimed at building up the dog’s motivation to search. The key objective is to ensure that the dog is highly motivated to perform all job activities.

Principle two: Pressure search

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A dog exhibiting pressure-search has its nose constantly flush with the surface of the area being searched and is completely focused in the search so that concentration is rarely broken. The key objective is to ensure that the dog is sniffing as close to the ground surface as possible, giving the highest probability of detection success. This style of search is accomplished by training the dog to detect micro-sized pieces of Kong (the rubber device used as a pray and then to be the reinforcer during training), which can only be detected if the dog’s nose passes very close by. This technique is initially trained on different object such as vehicles, brick walls and any other suitable environment, when the dog is able to maintain pressure search and detect “microscopic” pieces of Kong under these conditions, the dog are exposed for pressure search towards the ground.

Principle three: Maximizing the difficult of the detection task

Even early in training, the dog is never given easy detection tasks. The dog’s initial sensitivity is measured using pieces of Kong as targets on different objects when the dog is able to detect “microscopic size pieces”. A training apparatus called the carousel is used to train the dog’s sensibility towards the target substance (explosives). Once the dog is successfully detecting a difficult target, a training process designed to increase sensitivity further is introduced. The dog is initially presented with a target at the most difficult level, and then the difficulty is progressively reduced (odor availability is increased) until the dog finally detects the target, thus establishing the dog’s “detection sensitivity threshold”. This threshold is the most difficult level of a substance that the dog is able to detect. Once this threshold has been determined, the difficulty is gradually increased to improve sensitivity. Training dogs to detect difficult targets at all times maintains the effort the dog must exert during the search.

Principle four: Unpredictability

Everything should be unpredictable for the dog. Rewards should not appear reliably, training should occur in different places and versatile environments, the type of the next target should not be predicted by the current target, and so on. The dog constantly encounters unexpected stimuli. In effect, all aspects of the training experience are randomized so that the position of targets cannot be predicted. For example, training  areas are rotated so that the detection of the target cannot be based on memory.

Principle five: Consistency

Everything to do with handling, on the other hand, has to be consistent. The dog has to be able to rely on his handler for acting in a stable manner where it is clear for the dog what it has to do, what is allowed and what is not allowed. The rules must be black and white. In this way the dog can experience control over its environment since whatever it does, the handler will react in a predictable manner. This prevents stress for the dog. Once a rule is set, it is not deviated from: what is allowed one day, should also be allowed the next and not suddenly be corrected. A routine before searching should always be the same; routines for grooming; routines for transport etc. 

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