NASDU LEVEL 4 Explosive Detection Dog Handlers Course
– It’s Harder than you think it is! September 2018
Having worked with dogs in the Army I always wanted to go back to Job I loved with a passion, so in June 2018 after years of planning and saving, I was in a position to book on to the Level 4 EDD Course. Having done so much research I decided to book with Malpeet K9 Academy. I must say Simon Mallin and his team tare very helpful and nothing was too much trouble they are happy to answer any questions that you may have. I duly booked on the next course which was 1st September to 7 October 2018, time flew by and before I knew it the course was about to start.
Day 1 after initial briefing it was dog selection Simon said for the first few days we would be working 2 dogs in case any of the dogs we picked didn’t make it. I had picked Cooper a Springer Spaniel Pointer Cross and a Springerdor Bitch called Lucy, the rest of the day was spent testing with them with the ball before we knew it the day was over only another 31 very long days to go before assessments. Next few days were spent at Malpeet imprinting the dogs on to their first scents. The dogs were working hard in the scent room and around Malpeet with high and low hides and developing their indication. The days are long and tiring but very rewarding, with lots of information to be taken in and learn, evenings spent studying for our exams later on in the course, but I was loving every minute of it and my roommate Dave Wilcox was a fountain of knowledge and a great help not only to me but to others during our first few days. During this time Cooper and I were doing well and starting to gel as a team at this point I gave up Lucy to another handler as her two previous dogs were not making the grade.
Our first trip out of Malpeet was to a social club in Aberkenfiq where we started with operational room searches with high and low hides and over the next few days new scents were also introduced. Cooper and I were working well together as a team, we spent the next day at the RBL Rumney which was a great training venue over many different floors and rooms for us to use, more and more new scents were introduced to the dogs both at Malpeet and on the various sites we were using. The next venue for 2 days was at Pencoed College with searches getting bigger and hides harder, our systems being tested everyday, also we were introduced to open area searches, at this point there was so much information to take in and learn, but I still loved every minute of it. I know both Cooper and myself loved the searches and the feeling when you get a find he’s happy as he gets his ball and a play I was happy as I know he is doing his job. Time was flying by and nearly at the end of the first module, but not quite, we went to the next venue which was a place called Owens Transport, where we started with some open area search with various scents in and Distractors. We then started on vehicles with some focused training around a large HGV trailer getting the dogs used to search vehicles and us working on our handling technique’s, with Simon not letting us get away with things as we did in the early days. The next day we went to Cardiff to a place called QTS we started with a building search with lots of distractions we were both tested hard with our systems making sure we worked in a safe and systematic and methodical way. I think Simon’s phrase of the day was “You’re unsafe there!” was all part of the learning curve we all heard it so many times. We were nearly at the end of module one and all had come so far and learnt so much dogs were improving every day with a break due in 24 hrs we spent the last day working on our systems phase 1 and phase 2 ensuring before we moved forward it was safe to do so working the dogs on numerous scents now with the searches getting harder but we all knew harder was still to come.
After a well-deserved break for both the dogs and us, module 2 started where we left off we did our presentations in the morning and then on site at Malpeet in the afternoon, with a quick refresh for the dogs and us before we started the imprinting on a new scent. Simon did say module 2 was going to get tougher wasn’t really sure until we went to Freight Movement next day with a long day ahead of us we started with some vehicle searches working on our skills we did both lorrys and vans both inside and out we all were learning something new every day and spotting the dogs change in behaviour when they were on scent. The afternoon we had our biggest challenge to date as a team we had a search a full transport yard under the watchful eye of Inspector Mallin (roleplay) with the dogs searching longer and longer with negative finds long day, but overall a great session. The next 2 days were spent at St Athans Airfield where we spent the day in one of the hangers/workshops. With new scent introduced and we worked in pairs to search the hanger with several hides in difficult locations doing sections each before swapping over the dogs were now working on 5 different scents with good indications on all searches were tough with lots of distractions to deal with and keep the dogs focused on the search in hand. Day 2 started with some refresher training before we were called up one at a time to carry out a search on the aircraft which didn’t quite go to plan for me but with some help from Simon, we got there a good lesson to learn the hard way. Next day we spent at Malpeet working on new explosives in scent room and also free searches with various hides in different locations Cooper was working well and I was keeping up with him the next few days we were off to a various sites with searches getting tougher and tougher and longer our systems being tested on every search learning to keeping moving forward but not to quickly with some negative searches thrown in for good measure both dogs and handlers being tested with building and open area searches and a few vehicle searches thrown in to every day seemed to get tougher but we were all loving it still lots to learn and cram in. With us all getting it right for our assessments with days running out all the dogs had the scent ID test involving 7 scents and 6 runs per scent. Cooper worked and passed all his testing so well chuffed with him with just days left we were lucky enough to go down to Somerset to a secret location to work on bulk explosive which was an early start and long day but it was an amazing experience and the dogs working on amounts from 1kg to 10+KG and the difference it made to the scent pool for them I was so proud of him that day he worked hard and did what was required of him well that was us at the end just practical assessments to go where did the 32 days go. Our Assessor was Lee Weaver despite the nerves we had, he put us at ease and said just do what you have been taught, we did our first building search on Day one with multiple rooms and hides very testing on both the dog and ourselves and had to wait for our results, which we all passed just 2 final assessments left vehicles and open areas, which we were doing the next day. The final day came with just the final assessments to come, first was an outside area search large and tricky which fully tested our systems of Search and was a fair test for an assessment last but not least was vehicle searches we had a line of cars to Search 2 were negative and one had a hide on it not that we knew that but as they say trust your dog if it’s there they will find it with assessments now done we just had to wait for our results which when we got them was a relief and so began the celebrations on our final night though we were all so tired we all were happy and I think we all slept soundly .
One the final day we had our interviews and presentations packed up and said our goodbyes, a huge thanks to Simon and his Team for a well-run and organised course. As I left there with Cooper I knew I have an awesome dog who loves his work. I have made some lifelong friends and completed one of the toughest courses both mentally and physically but I loved every minute of it. So what now for me and Cooper who knows but we will face it together and I get to work with my best friend.