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19/11/01
Dogs patrol army bases

EXERCISE SAIF Sareea II officially kicked kicked off in September, but 'enablers' had been in Oman since May to ensure that everything was up and running before troops arrived for the testing training event organised in conjunction with Omani forces.

With millions of pound's worth equipment arriving in Oman, security was obviously key. Six of the Army's top canine crime-fighters were in Oman, with more arriving as the exercise reached its climax.

Dog trainer, Corporal Julia Campbell of the Royal Army veterinary Corps explained that special air conditioned kennels were first introduced in Kosovo because of the extremes of temperatures in the country - the kennels can be heated in the winter and cooled in the summer.

Being able to offer air conditioned kennels was vital in Oman because the dogs were so unused to the climate and unable to take the same common-sense precautions as humans.

Precaution

The kennels could be folded down into one self-contained shipping container for maximum ease of transport during operations or exercises. All feeding and grooming was carried out within the cooled atmosphere, and dogs had the choice of staying in the shade, or stretching their legs within their own private run.

Belgian Shepherds were also being used instead of the usual German Shepherd breed. Julia explains that this is because Belgian Shepherds are lighter, and adapted more easily to the Gulf climate. The additional precaution of regular grooming was also vital to remove the dog's undercoat and keep them as cool as possible.

The dog's work really began when they were taken on patrol of the Army's base at Port Salalah, although they were used and worked in other camps when Saif Sareea II was fully underway.

Julia concluded; "It takes patience and natural ability to be a dog trainer. You have got to be able to build a relationship quickly. When you pair up with a new dog, you do all their walking, feeding and grooming so that they associate you with something nice."

Security work may be tough under the scorching desert sun, but the handlers agreed that their work goes beyond a nine to five job, and partners soon become firm friends.


Although German Shepherds are firm favourites, in this latest operation Belgian Shepherd Dogs
were used as they are more adapted to the hot temperatures and arid climate.