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Afghan insurgents try to foil sniffer dogs

TALIBAN INSURGENTS in Afghanistan trying to attack British forces with roadside bombs have tried to disrupt specialist explosive Sniffer dogs from operating - by leaving dog toys and treats around hidden devices.

Lance Coroperal Cal Brown and his faithful Sniffer Dog, Bronny

Specialist dog handlers operating in Afghanistan and Iraq have had to adapt their tactics and animal training to stay one step ahead in what is a potentially lethal battle of wits, teaching their animals to ignore any such objects and focus entirely on the telltale scent of explosives.

In some cases militants have left pieces of food or tennis balls - which handlers use to reward their dogs with play sessions when they successfully complete a task.

But the Army specialist teams are now confident they have overcome the problem, specifically training the dogs to ignore 'dead balls' which handlers leave around target areas during daily practice sessions.

The explosive sniffer dogs are a highly valued military asset on the frontline in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is increasingly turning to the use of roadside bombs to attack British forces and the fledgling Afghan National Army.

They have already saved countless lives by finding weapons caches, booby-trap bombs and unexploded ordinance dropped by allied warplanes, which could have killed or injured locals or been used to make more roadside bombs.

Lance Corporal Cal Brown, 28, from Lowestoft in Suffolk, works with a six-year-old golden Labrador named Bronny. They are normally based at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray, and are currently attached to 102 Military Working Dogs Support Unit.

Bomb sniffer dogs often move at the front of patrols as British forces move through hazardous areas, but they are painstakingly trained not to touch or interfere with any suspicious object, instead sitting and staring at the source of a scent.

L Cpl Brown said: ‘We don't let them get that close, even. I'll call Bronny off as soon as he starts to show an interest in an area. His whole mood and the way he's working changes subtly, and once he's given me that early indication his job is done and he moves back.

‘To him it's all a big game. He's happy travelling in all the vehicles we use, including helicopters. He'll just hop right in and find a space on the floor.

Bronny is a veteran of active service – he has previously served in Iraq and Northern Ireland, before his tour of duty in Afghanistan.’

Thanks to years of experience in Northern Ireland, the British Army's specialists believe they - along with the Israelis - lead the world in the use of dogs to find explosives.