Bomb dogs 98% effective in Afghanistan
For the US Marines patrolling the dusty footpaths of southern Afghanistan, a bomb-sniffingI have been a big fan of Labrador Retrievers since my kids were young. They are smart friendly dogs, that are also protective. They never have a bad day, unless you give them one. They will retrieve until they drop of exhaustion and they love the water. I can also understand their attraction to these young Marines. Semper Fi to Crush, Brooks and Ringo. can mean the difference between life and death.
These "dogs of war" have saved countless lives and their record for finding hidden explosives has won them a loyal following.
"They are 98 percent accurate. We trust these dogs more than metal detectors and mine sweepers," says handler Corporal Andrew Guzman.
Trained to detect five kinds of threat, from military grade C-4 plastic explosive to common chemicals used by theto make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the dogs play a vital role alongside their human comrades.
Bomb expert Sergeant Crush is all concentration as he leads a foot patrol by two squads of US Marines deployed to Afghanistan as part of Washington's fresh surge to end an eight-year insurgency by the Taliban.
His job along with Corporal Goodwin is to lead the men to safety through dusty footpaths and compounds whereplant deadly bombs that have left many troops dead in recent months.
They are from a group of four Iraq and Afghanistan., who are on average four years old and have all seen action in
"These dogs are great. They keep our Marines alive," says First Lieutenant Aaron MacLean, 2nd Platoon commander of the Marines 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment Charlie Company, to which the dog team is attached.
Crush suddenly goes on a swift bound, sniffing out a corner of a compound in the outskirts of a Taliban stronghold inprovince.
There is a quick change in his demeanour, his muscles tense up, he freezes, sticks out his tail and then lies down with his paws extended up front.
The area turned out to have been a former storage place for, a fertiliser compound recently banned by the government that the Taliban commonly use in making powerful homemade bombs.
Brooks, a three year-old Labrador with tan fur, has been deployed three times in Iraq and and has helped with the recovery of approximately 14 bombs and saved many lives.
One sniffer named Ringo gained a legendary reputation for having found as many as 30 daisy-chain landmines in Iraq, he says.
"Our life is in this boy's hands pretty much," says Grimm, a 19-year-old who has been Brooks' handler since late last year. Grimm grabs a rubber toy called a "konk" and lets Brooks nibble on it.
"They don't ask for much except to be taken care of," he says.
Handlers say the US government spends huge amounts of money to train the dogs in a civilian-led programme contracted out by the defence department.
They begin training when they are puppies, and by the time they reach two and half years old, are ready to be deployed.
The German Shepherds because they are easier to train. Labradors are also hunting dogs who can pick up a scent as far as 500 metres (yards) away.in Afghanistan prefer using pure-bred Labradors over sentry dogs such as