On the scent: State K9 dogs and handlers undergo intensive training


By Nancy Nais

SERIAN, Nov 29: Recently, the state’s Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba)’s newly set up K9 detection unit together with their trainers from Kuala Lumpur came together for intense training at several locations here.

The training sessions which were spread out over five days were conducted by its K9 Kuala Lumpur chief, fire superintendent Donny Chap, head of operations senior assistant superintendent Kaya Bangkong, Hamdi Wahab and unit chief-in-charge of Sarawak Dominic Girai.

K9 Kuala Lumpur chief, fire superintendent Donny (centre) with the team at Rancan, Serian for Wilderness training exercises.

Bomba had recently acquired six dogs from the United Kingdom, a move that will add bite to its search and rescue (SAR) operations and fire investigations.

The training consists of six handlers Kenneth Masir, Steven Ambu, Peter Huang, Maxwell Joe Richard, Dennis Augustine and Dominic Bahong, together with their charges Bella, Clif, Wilf, Sue, Bailey and Daisy undertaking fire investigation, SAR cadaver (detect dead bodies in water) and SAR wilderness simulations.

The main purpose of the training was to teach the handlers how to become better handlers and provide refresher lessons for the working dogs.

K9 Kuala Lumpur chief, fire superintendent Donny (right) briefing the team at Ranchan, Serian before they begin the Wilderness exercise.
Kaya (right) with state K9 unit chief-in-charge Dominic Girai.

The group spent hours in field work to help enhance the K9 dogs’ desire to detect their targeted odour and to be prepared for when they are called in for critical response situations.

“It is important to expose the canines so that during actual deployments, the K9 team is familiar with how to work during this type of operation,” Kaya told DayakDaily.

Overall, he summarised the training as a success with all their first batch of six dogs and respective handlers participating in several stimulation exercises this week.

DayakDaily was given the rare opportunity to take part in the Wilderness training session which was held at the jungle in Ranchan, Serian.

Kaya explained that during training, the handler must learn to recognise his dog’s behavior, and pay constant and close attention to the environment, which may be difficult or dangerous in commonly encountered search scenarios such as hazardous terrain, low-visibility, while navigating off-trail, when fatigued or distracted.

The K9 team taking a short break in the jungle, discussing their next move.

The Wilderness dogs, Bailey (Labrador) and Daisy (Border Collie), are trained to locate individuals in rugged terrain that is generally difficult for human searchers to navigate.

They are typically trained in agility as well as on- and off-lead obedience for complete control, and generally work off-lead as air-scenting dogs to locate lost or missing individuals quickly and reliably.

Wilderness search dogs are also trained with article or evidence search, tracking and trailing.

“For Wilderness training, we’ve made the tracks one day before and left them for 24 hours because there are many factors that will affect the dog’s ability for SAR. Among them are weather conditions and footprints may be lost because of rain.

“Bahong and Daisy managed to follow the track that we made yesterday. After Daisy smelt the article (victim’s scent), she managed to follow the track, and successfully found the victim,” Kaya said.

Dennis and Bailey were also given the same stimulation exercise and motivation training.

DayakDaily journalist with Bomba K9 team in Ranchan, Serian after the completion of Wilderness training.

In total, four walking tracks were made and based on the article, both were successful and rewarded with their favourite toy, a tennis ball and a rubber ball.

For each K9 dog, they understand that odour is everything and it is a “I go to that odour; I get my toy as reward.” — DayakDaily