A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany

United Kingdom's Royal Army Veterinary Corps'



Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England

The Defence Animal Centre prides itself on its well deserved reputation as the leading dog training school in the UK and is rated as one of the best in the world!

It was during World War 2 that the Corps developed its interest in the use of dogs for military purposes - this was to ensure its post-war viability.

In 1942 the RAVC became responsible for the procurement of dogs for all service agencies, to avoid the duplication that had arisen between the Services in the acquisition of war dogs; in 1946 it was assigned the overall management for the Army's dog resources.

A further 49 years were to pass before the duplication of effort in the training of services dogs was to be addressed; not until late 1992, when the Ministry of Defence phrased out the Royal Air Force Dog Training Squadron, at RAF Newton.

Today, the RAVC's DAC is the only point of acquisition and training for all dogs required for service by the British Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence's Police, HM Customs & Excise, the Home Office, other government agencies in the UK, and some Commonwealth members as well.

Outside the UK, the Defence Animal Support Unit RAVC, at Sennelager, Germany, continues to provide technical support for all animals on the continent, including a current commitment in Bosnia, and still occupies the same premises today, that it moved into back in 1945.

In Asia, the RAVC maintains a Defence Animal Support Unit RAVC in Brunei as part of The Jungle Warfare Wing located, Medicina Lines, Seria.


The Defence Animal Centre relies heavily upon the valued public donations of dogs to supply their Armed Forces of the United Kingdom; the preferred breeds used are: German Shepherds, any gundog breed and Border Collies, between one and three years of age.


The military staff at the DAC, from both the Army and RAF, reflect in their training, the skills, experience and knowledge gained on operations with military dogs in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo and other theatres of war.

The School's high standards are achieved by techniques that inflict no suffering on the dog. All service dogs are trained with absolute kindness and their welfare is of the highest standard possible. All trainers draw out and reinforce the natural skills inherent in the various breeds.

The dogs are taught to associate achievements with a verbal praise and their goal is to please their handlers as they go into action together.

The Centre has an "open book" policy, and is independently checked by animal welfare organisations and its training is ratified by them annually.

DAC Drug Detector Dog

Service Dog Descriptions

Protection Dogs are trained to provide controlled aggression in the apprehension of intruders at restricted military installations.

Arms-and-Explosives Search Dogs have proved invaluable in the detection of caches of weapons and bomb-making items.

Tracker Dogs are trained to follow a suspected terrorist after an incident or by back-tracking from an incident in order to gain information on a suspected terrorist's movements before an incident.

And Drug Detection Dogs have done much to deny the illegal passage of prohibited substances into the UK.

Operational Duties

Its little wonder, that with the current escalation of international terrorism as well as the continuing matter of the IRA, there has been little abatement in the Corps involvement with Service Dogs.

One handler and a dog are a very effective and efficient force multiplier, and are capable of covering an area that might otherwise require five separate foot patrols and they can also do it more effectively. Their superior ability to indicate the presence of an intruder, coupled with their agility and speed in chase and apprehension, make dogs a formidable deterrent which is rarely challenged by the ill intentioned.

Over open country or in urban areas, in pursuit of intruders or detecting terrorist's munition dumps, Service Dogs have been successfully used in Kenya, Cyprus, Hong Kong, the Falkland Islands, and today in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

Dogs are also an invaluable aid to our ground troops in jungle warfare as was demonstrated in the Malayan campaign against the Communist terrorists and again in Borneo against the Indonesian invasion.

In the years since 1946, the RAVC has been very active, with the Corps representation in some form in nearly every British Theatre of Operation.

DAC's Other Interests

Although Melton Mowbray is primarily used for training dogs in protection and search roles, the unit is also the centre for horses used by Britain's ceremonial units (with the Household Cavalry and The King's Troop RHA being the main users). and provides 200 years of expertise and support for all other United Kingdom agencies and Commonwealth forces.

And as might be expected, the Defense Animal Centre has a 24 hour Veterinary cover and also boasts Great Britain's most modern and comprehensive Veterinary Hospital.


Today, Great Britain's RAVC personnel enjoy a challenging and varied employment role involved in all aspects of the use of Service Dogs for military purposes, from their procurement, through their intial assessment and training, the maintenance of their health and fitness, throughout their service life, to their retirement from active service.



Today in Kosovo, a recurrent problem is that the civilians are unwittingly straying into land mined areas and are either killed, injured or trapped within the fields.

Hooch & Lance Corporal
Andy Sinclair, RAVC

Detection Dogs such as Hooch had consistently achieved 100 percent detection rates during their intensive training course at the Defence Animal Centre.

The duo is one of six British Army Detection Dog teams to go to Kosovo to help support the United Nations "peacekeeping" efforts, and assist cleaning up Kosovo's mine fields.

United Kingdom:
MOD Police Dog Units

The one role for which the Ministry of Defence Police are best known is providing uniformed police officers to guard and carry out police duties at military bases throughout the country, this often includes providing an armed police and security force on all bases, including those of the United States military.

MoD Bomb Sniffing Dog

The Ministry of Defence's Police have one of the largest Police Dog sections within Great Britain today, with around 300 police dogs which are trained in a number of special roles, such as General Police Dogs, Specialist Search Dogs which can locate Drugs or Explosives and Human Remains. 

Prison Guard Team Won 6th Nat'l Dog Trials 1999

Most of the MDP dogs are allocated to only official government sites and stations, where they serve with their handlers behind the wire and provide a police patrol dog presence to deter and detect all intruders;  but they'll also provide assistance to local police, if needed.

Army Dog Unit, Northern Ireland

Army dogs play a vital role in security operations in Northern Ireland where their acute senses of smell and hearing prove invaluable in the fight against terrorism.

The Army Dog Unit, Northern Ireland (ADU NI) is responsible for providing the British Security Forces with canine support. The Service Dogs are trained for specific roles with one dog undertaking one particular job.

The roles undertaken are:

Guard Dogs - aggressive, it is employed in the defence of bases for the detection and apprehension of intruders.

Arms Explosive Search Dog - trained to find all types of firearms, explosives, hides and bomb making ancillaries in various environments.

Vehicle Search Dog - trained to search for firearms, explosives and bomb making ancillaries in all private and commercial vehicles.

Tracker Dog - trained to follow a suspected terrorist after an incident or by back-tracking from an incident in order to gain information on a suspected terrorist's movements before an incident.

There are approx 170 British Army Service Dogs in Northern Ireland, the handlers are all volunteers recruited from across the British Army, there are currently 27 different capbadges represented in the Army Dog Unit, Northern Ireland. However, all members of the unit are united by wearing a "RED PAW" badge to the left of their capbadge.

Kenya's Ivory Dogs!

Six dogs trained by the DAC  are playing a crucial role in the going war against ivory poaching in Kenya. It is believed that the specialist K-9 teams are the world's first specially trained ivory sniffers.

The Defence Animal Centre already trains detection dogs to sniff out drugs, explosives and missing people but the request from the Kenyan Wildlife Service represented their greatest challenge so far.

The first problem was to obtain enough raw ivory to be able to train the dogs to identify it. However, because of the special circumstances, Kenya Wildlife Service sent a small quantity of seized elephant tusks to Melton Mowbray from Kenya.

During the 12 week basic course, trainers used the ivory as a toy and gave lots of praise every time one of the dogs retrieved it. Eventually, the dogs began to associate the smell of ivory with fun and praise.

But one of the more unique problems, the DAC had in training the dogs, was their future environment. A spokeman said: "All the dogs had been specially trained for their temperaments, but the first time we walked through a herd of giraffe, their eyes nearly popped out of their heads.

We had trained them in the UK with cows, to get them used to walking through herds of wild animals. But they came through with flying colours and the giraffes and other animals are now just part of the scenery to them."

When the dogs were ready,  the DAC's trainers traveled with them to Kenya, to help train and accustom the park's rangers, who were selected as handlers. In a short space of time, both dogs and handlers were working in close harmony as teams.

Since arriving in Kenya last year, the dogs have learned not only to find illegal ivory but also illegal rhino horn and even weapons. Rhino horn is the world's most expensive substance - a single horn sold in Japan today could easily fetch $1 million (700,000) dollars.

Today, the Ivory Dogs are enjoying some success, in Kenya's war against poachers, with a number of illegal ivory tusks and rhino horns recovered.

United Kingdom
HM Customs & Excise Sniffer Dogs

Ever since they were first introduced in 1978,  the Detector Dogs of HM Customs & Excise have been one of their most successful tools in protecting British society from the dangers of imported illegal drugs.

Each year, Custom's teams of around 90 dogs and handlers help uncover an average of more than 65 million of banned substances such as drugs.

Although they often have a flair for this type of work, all of the dogs are put through an intensive six month training course at the military Defence Animal Centre at Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, where they become among the finest working animals in the United Kingdom.

Using their highly developed sense of smell, H.M. Customs & Excise dogs can sniff out drugs hidden on passengers, or in baggage and or vehicles ...giving their anti-smuggling officers valuable insight into illegal shipments.

H.M. Customs and Excise's Sniffer Dogs work at all shipping ports and airports across the UK. Their energy and skill mean that they can carry out large scale searches in a fraction of the time it would take humans.

The dogs are trained to sniff out heroin, cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis, but some are also capable of detecting firearms and explosives, as well as hidden cash.  In the past they have also found illegal immigrants.

Once the dogs reach seven years, they usually stop work and 'retire.' According to a H.M. Customs and Excise's spokeman, "They have worked hard during their lives and we try to find a former handler or an other good owner to take care of them in their retirement.

We always make sure they go to a good home!"

K-9 History: British Soldier Adopts Kosovo Refugee Pup!

And The Osker Goes To...

by Nina Butler
Pet Planet UK

Apparently there is an unwritten rule in the Army that if you appear on the TV, radio or in the papers you have to buy a crate of beer for your mates. If this is the case, Steve Smith's local off-licence has been doing a rather brisk trade over the last few months, such has been the media interest in him and Osker, the little puppy he rescued while stationed in Kosovo.

Osker's story captured many people's imagination: rescued and cared for by an Army unit in Kosovo, brought to England on a mercy dash by Brian Faulkner from WSPA with flights donated by British Airways, and then waiting six long months before he could be reunited with Steve. His arrival at Heathrow caused a flurry of media activity, and as he came off the plane in his transportation crate he was met by a wall of the nation's press.

Of that day Steve said, "I didn't expect it to be as big as it was. I had an inkling that a few people knew he would be coming back. Maybe it was quiet news week, and that's why they all came down!"

At this point Steve hadn't seen Osker for several months, having come back to Britain before it could be arranged for Osker to do the same. They managed to snatch a couple of minutes bonding time at the airport before it was time for Osker to depart to quarantine. Steve travelled down with him to help him settle in. The next six months would be a waiting game for both of them.

"In quarantine I think they kind of forget you. When I went to visit him he wouldn't come over to me like he usually did. He would run up and down for about 10 minutes until he calmed down. I don't know, maybe they turn back to the wild a bit," Steve said.

If you've ever had a dog go through quarantine, you will be familiar with all the worries Steve had for Osker. "Every owner would love them to have a pen the size of field, but the kennels weren't that bad," he said. "The staff were nice, he was definitely well looked after. In fact he was putting on that much weight at one point, we had to calm his feeding down a bit!"

The kennels were only about 20 minutes away from where Steve lived and he made sure he visited Osker twice a week unless Army exercises called him away. But however well he was looked after physically, young Osker was inevitably missing out on lots of things. "It was a sentence for him rather than me," said Steve. "He was six months old when he went in, so he's about a year old now." It was a large chunk of puppyhood to lose behind bars.

Eventually though, the six months was up and the big day arrived. "It was weird feeling, the day he came out," said Steve. "We went down to the kennels and met up with Brian Faulkner from WSPA - it was nice to have them there. There was a Sky TV van and all these people. It was a little difficult because it would have been nice to have five or ten minutes with him first, just to give him a walk round. But it was nice because, well, we were going home."

Osker's second appearance in front of the press was just as well received as his first, although he was more concerned with leaving kennels behind and going on to his new home.

"He came out and we did a few walks for the cameras," said Steve. "He was dying to get off the lead I could tell, but we had TV people asking 'Could you just do that again for us please Steve'. We eventually got in the car and shot off and he was happy as Larry. We stopped about 10 minutes down the road, where no one could find us, and got out so he could have a proper sniff around".

The end of Osker's quarantine meant not only getting reacquainted with Steve, but also meeting up with the other members of the Royal Signals unit that had looked after him in Kosovo. Steve had only been able to stay with Osker for three months before having to come back to the UK, it was then that 10 or 12 of his colleagues had taken over and kept Osker safe. "They'd done a really good job looking after him," said Steve. "He became like their dog basically. They were dead chuffed to see him."

So now Osker is settling into life in a family home, and Steve said he can see him changing more and more as he learns new things and has new experiences. "For example, my girlfriend Joanne was drying her hair in the mirror and he just stared at the mirror for about half an hour, he'd never seen one before," he said. "He didn't know what to do. For the first three days he was at home, he must have been in a spin. He's becoming a good family pet now, though."

Although Steve is training Osker himself at present, he is also looking into getting some professional training advice. After all, taking on the responsibility of a one-year-old male dog that has had no previous training and has just come out of quarantine would be a daunting task for anyone.

From the streets of Kosovo, to a loving family home, Osker's short life has been filled with adventure. But it might not have been such a happy story.

"I didn't really know what to expect when I wrote the letters," said Steve. "I just thought, 'Well I've got this little dog and I would love to take him back, so I'm going to write a few letters and see what happens.'"

Nothing particularly constructive did happen until after Steve had come back to Britain. Then Dogs Today and WSPA got involved and events started shifting forward. "It's the good old British people, isn't it. Sometimes you think people really aren't very nice, but it is things like this that prove otherwise," Steve said.

Steve has a scrap book of photos and cuttings. It's crammed full of photos of Osker when he was very tiny as well as newspaper cuttings. But, once you've turned over those pages, you discover Steve has also kept all the letters written to him by well-wishers and those who donated to the 'Osker fund'. Each one a reminder of just how many people were backing Osker, keeping their fingers crossed he would be reunited with the soldier who saved him. Letters were even arriving addressed only to 'Steve Smith and Osker, Royal Signals, British Army'. If ever there was a tale people wanted to end happily this was it.


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