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Drugs dogs practice following their nose on board warship

21 January 2016
Her pennant number may be D33 but for one day only HMS Dauntless was K9 when she welcomed on board MOD Police dogs and their handlers as part of their drugs dog course.

The Type 45 destroyer provided the dogs with a very different environment, testing their skills in being able to pick up the scent of drugs amongst a range of new smells and activity.

The two Labradors – Ted and Skye – come from the MOD Police Animal Training Centre and are on an eight-week course along with their new handlers to learn how to detect drugs.

By the end of the course the dogs must be able to find even one gram of drugs hidden on a person as part of their skillset.

This type of training is ideal as we can hide drugs in an environment they are unused to

PC Glenn Morby

Police dog handler PC Glenn Morby is based at Portsmouth Naval Base and will bring Ted back to join his explosives dog Bono at the base once they complete the course.

“The course looks at the dogs being both passive and proactive,” he explained.

“Passive means that they are able to detect that someone has drugs hidden on their person whereas proactive is scanning an environment such as this.

“The dogs must work harder to detect drugs on a person – they have to be able to determine very quickly who is carrying the drugs and then whether it is a significant amount or just someone who may have inadvertently come into contact with them.

“This type of training is ideal as we can hide drugs in an environment they are unused to – as well as hide it on personnel to determine if they can sniff it out.”

The handlers – who are in week six of the course – are all experienced MOD Police officers but must go on the course with their new dogs to practise working together as a team.

PC Morby and Bono already sweep the areas around HMS Victory daily and once Ted joins their team he will help his handler in a variety of roles.

“With Ted I will be able to act mainly as a deterrent around the ships, the jetties, the BAE shipyard areas, as well as doing spot checks on the gate for example,” said PC Morby. “It is a very varied role.”

Once on board the ship, the dogs were taken around the hangar, down into the junior rates’ mess and walked through corridors to locate packages of drugs deliberately hidden around the ship.

Several of the ship’s company also volunteered to conceal a package and walk past Ted and Skye to see if they could be detected. In all cases the dogs managed to find the concealments and were rewarded with a ball and a pat from their handler.

Regulator Petty Officer Kris McMahon of HMS Dauntless, who invited the course on board while the ship is based in Portsmouth, said it was important to allow the dogs to explore a different environment.

“It’s quite rare that we would get a dog team on board,” he said, “but in the event that we or another warship does in the future, it is important for them to get to grips with all the different sights, sounds and smells they will encounter.

“Things like going up and down ladders for example could be intimidating for the dogs but they need to be able to find the environment as normal as possible so that they can find anything unusual on board.”

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