Often dogs are described as man’s best friend, but they are more than that in the context of peace and security operations. They work side by side with the women and men working and providing security in the most difficult of environments and places. Explosive Detection Dogs (EDD), play an important role in preventive security measures by providing explosive detection capability and deterrence.
In Somalia, Explosive Detection Dogs play a key role in mitigation against the threat of explosives. As part of UNMAS support to the African Union Mission in Somalia, UNMAS provides EDD teams to provide security and protection to key facilities in Somalia. These teams provide detection capability at entry control points, key government facilities, airports and security checkpoints. In May 2019, UNMAS EDD teams searched 48,916 vehicles and 30,049 pieces of luggage in the capitol Mogadishu and the Federal Member States.
An EDD Team is comprised of two trained dogs and a dedicated handler. Together, they conduct searches for a variety of explosive materials in different environments. They develop a strong bond and friendship as a team. Through the years, handlers develop a good understanding of the behaviors and personality of their dogs. EDDs communicate with their handlers using behavioral signals that the handlers recognize.
“I work with two dogs, Tony and Flabio. I have been working with them for three years now. I have gotten to know their different behaviors and personalities. Flabio is stronger and faster. He is more confident. Whereas, Tony is easy-going and quiet” Says Andrew Mironga, who works as an EDD handler for SafeLane Global in Somalia.
Handlers are also responsible for providing the basic care and welfare for their dogs including grooming, feeding, daily health checks, bathing and exercising. They also conduct regular training exercises to keep the dog fit and increase stamina. These exercises are designed to assess the EDD’s effectiveness in detecting explosives.
As part of UNMAS quality assurance procedures, each handler maintains a log book to check the fitness of the EDDs. Each day, handlers take their dogs for exercising and daily walks. They provide ample time for the dog to play and rest. This structured routine helps the dogs stay healthy and fit. Handlers check on them daily, making sure they are up to the task in detecting explosives. Handlers must recognize the physical and psychological comfort of their dogs to assess their ability
“These dogs do an important job. They keep me and other people safe. We cannot underestimate their value. To keep fit and alert, I and my team constantly look after them. We have a daily and weekly routine. If I am not on duty working with my dogs on site, I am here feeding, grooming, and playing with them. This routine has become second nature for me.” Added Andrew.
Like in other workplaces, communication is crucial in achieving productivity. EDDs communicate with handlers through behavioral cues. Different dogs use different behavioral signals when they detect anything suspicious. Some signal the presence of anything suspicious by sitting near a suspected explosive device; other dogs kneel. These cues alert the handlers to that EDD found something suspicious. Good understanding between handler and dog, results in increased levels of detection accuracy.
Below are a series of illustrations that show the bond between dog handlers and their assigned dogs. Photo credits: UNMAS/Omar Abdisalan
Senior Dog Handler conducting a training exercise with EDD Flabio.
It takes less than 1 minute to thoroughly search a vehicle with an EDD.
Senior EDD handler, Andrew Mironga, signaling that EDD Flabio has an indication
EDD Tony enjoying his reward after a successful detection.
Precious Chigudu, senior EDD handler, playing with EDD Mazli, one of his assigned canines in Mogadishu. Water pools help the canine stay cool during the hot summer days in Somalia.
Precious Chigudu, senior EDD handler, playing with EDD Rebel, one of his assigned canines in Mogadishu. Water pools help the canine stay cool during the hot summer days in Somalia.
EDD Rebel looking fondly at Precious after exercising in the pool.
An EDD team working together, searching incoming traffic to Mogadishu International Airport Camp.
All UNMAS EDD’s are provided with a balanced diet that suits their energetic work.