January 19, 2019 14:57

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The story of training sniffing dogs of Vietnamese Customs

09:05 | 16/02/2018

VCN- Intelligent, friendly, highly disciplined... are prominent features of Labradors and Alsatians being selected. They are trained by the Vietnamese Customs to perform drug and gunpowder detection that is hidden in luggage, on passengers, in goods at airports, border gates, and international 

the story of training sniffing dogs of vietnamese customs
The story of training sniffing dogs of Vietnamese Customs

The management team for training and use of sniffing dogs is Team 8, of the Anti-Smuggling Investigation Department (General Department of Customs). It is the unit which guides training and use of 120 sniffing dogs distributed in 22 Customs provincial departments, cities, and 33 Customs offices at border gates. The dogs they use for drug detection are Labradors from Australia (80%), and Alsatians from Germany (20%). Basically, the professional dogs have been trained appropriately for each area, the quantity and structure also meets the requirements for drug prevention and control at border gates.

‘Feeding, training, bathing, sleeping... and going out with these dog is a daily task for every trainer when choosing this job. At first, everyone thought this was a simple job, but when we learned about it, we could feel the persistence, hard work and love of the civil servants doing this job’.

Working as a sniffing dog trainer for 20 years, Mr. Chu Huy Viet, Head of mobile training team under Team 8 was one of the first trainers as a Vietnamese Customs officer dog handler. With 11 years as a trainer for using sniffing dogs for drug control at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City), Chu Huy Viet said: To become a professional dog trainer, firstly, the trainer must be a passionate about dogs. Most of the sniffing dog are about 10 months old, are still small and unknowing. The first job of the trainer is to get acquainted with their "new friend". More than 10 days is the time for the trainer to begin work on acquaintances, to learn, to make friends... before training takes place. In order to assess the discipline of a dog, the trainer gives commands with 15 basic moves such as walking, standing, sitting, crawling, climbing stairs, going to the cage, snatching, wrapping...

On the other hand, trainers have their own difficulties with each coaching direction. For dogs trained in the direction of drug discovery, the average training takes 6 months to 1 year to identify major types of drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and opium. With the dogs trained in the direction of fighting, the trainers must play the role of "green" when training them. "The average professional dog weighs over 30 kg, despite wearing protective gear, it can be quite painful for the trainers when bitten. This deterrence factor causes many criminals to fear the dogs,” said Chu Huy Viet.

the story of training sniffing dogs of vietnamese customs

Sniffing dog training is conducted with 2 courses per year. (Photo provided by the Team 8).

The selection of these dogs is quite sophisticated, deciding on the efficiency of sniffing dogs upon graduation. Qualified dogs for training are first selected by breed (such as Labrador, (Alsation)?...) and those with a distinctive, friendly, intelligent, with audible characteristics are suitable for the work of Vietnamese Customs to be in contact with the environment of luggage, passengers, and goods. In addition to the standards of height, weight, and appearance, sniffing dogs specialized in drug detection must be scavengers, love objects... in order for trainers to apply the sniffing lessons.

Six years ago, Vietnamese Customs conducted research and standardized programs and documents on management, care, training, use, prevention and treatment with sniffing dogs, including 62 pages of documents and appendices. In addition to strict training requirements, Vietnamese Customs has set a target for graduated sniffing dogs assigned to local areas to reinforce, and improve their training according to the training program, so as to maintain and improve their ability.

In parallel, the training process must constantly change with the environment, the training situation. Accordingly, the trainers themselves plan to train the sniffing dogs they manage and report to the leaders of the unit directly managing them for approval. Weekly, the trainer must train with basic movements, physical training, and training the dogs for detecting drugs and explosives. When sniffing dogs go to work, the trainer must coordinate with colleagues to create hypothetical situations for dogs to find and detect, to create excitement and strengthen the capacity of sniffing dogs. If the sniffing dogs do not have to work, the trainer creates a hypothetical situation for them to detect the drug or explosives at least twice, at least 15 minutes/ time.

In order to improve the quality and save the budget, the Department of Anti-Smuggling Investigation has proposed and has been approved by the General Department of Customs to cease the construction of the Central Branch in Ho Chi Minh City, focusing on construction and operation of the Training Center in Bac Ninh.

We know the infrastructure and training conditions for sniffing dogs of Vietnamese Customs still have many difficulties. However, when achieving success in the prevention of drug crime, the trainers and their "friends" are proud of their sweat and hard work paying off for contributing to fulfil the common tasks of Vietnamese Customs.

Sniffing dogs used by the Vietnamese Customs since 1996.

Currently, the Vietnamese Customs is coordinating with the Ministry of Public Security (Department C204); Border Guard Command (T24 Intermediate School) provides training for trainers and sniffing dogs, with an average of 2 courses/year.

At the end of the training period, the trainers and sniffing dogs will receive certificates. Graduated professional dogs experience 4 steps: Selection, familiarization, the basic movement training, discipline training (building conditioned reflexes); specialist training (drug).

By Quang Hung/ Kieu Oanh