The detection of mines with Dogs is the most critical element of an effective and cost-efficient mine clearance operation. In many post-conflict societies, mined areas are a major obstacle preventing the return of refugees and the re-use of land for civilian purposes. Mines have an enormous negative social and economic impact. The removal of mines is a slow and dangerous process. Land mines can be made from
both metallic as well as non-metallic materials, meaning that metal detectors are often of no use in detecting mines. Despite significant investment in technology, humanitarian demining (mine clearance) remains a slow, costly and labor-intensive process.
Mine detection dogs help out their human partners by sniffing the ground for the explosives in landmines. When they smell explosives they signal to the deminers, who then start their work clearing the land. Fortunately, mine detection dogs are able to detect both metallic as well as non-metallic land mines by searching for minute traces of scent left behind by explosive devices. Dogs can contribute in many ways: they can be used for area reduction, to find individual mines, or to assure quality control of minefields cleared by equipment.
Because of their remarkable ability to detect hidden objects using odor, dogs are being used increasingly in the search for landmines. The use of dogs for mine detection has expanded and improved dramatically in the last ten years. Mine detection dogs work well in some places and not in others. Factors such as the soil type, terrain and climate all determine whether or not mine detection dogs will work well in a given area. Mine detection dogs have been used extensively in many countries including Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia and Mozambique.
Unlike a rescue dog, or a dog that is trained to detect drugs, the mine detecting dog needs to be one hundred per cent reliable. This is why the training of a mine detection dog is an extremely difficult and time-consuming. Dogs are trained to identify the various types of explosives found in mines. They are taught to slowly and carefully sniff the ground and to signal to their human partner any time they smell explosives. Training is a careful process. If they miss an explosive in training it’s just a mistake, but if they miss an explosive in the field it could injure a deminer, a dog, or an innocent child. However, compared to other detection methods, mine detection dogs are nearly ten times as effective. Because mine detection dogs are so well trained, very few are killed or injured in the line of duty. Their use has effectively saved countless lives.
Archana Asokan, Staff Writer