MOSUL, Iraq, Aug. 18, 2009 – Chew toys and leashes in hand, Iraqi police dog handlers and their working dogs arrived at Forward Operating Base Marez here Aug. 16 to fine-tune their skill in basic obedience and explosive detection techniques.

The class is the second portion of initial dog training that the Iraqi police began earlier in the year. The focus is for the police officers to build relationships with their dogs and refine basic obedience and explosive and narcotic detection techniques. 

The initial training consisted of introducing the police officers to working dogs as a resource, something they did not have until now. In the last month, they’ve acquired dogs and created a program to use them in their everyday working environment. 

“[The police] have a valuable asset now. A dog’s nose is so much stronger than ours,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Nalley, lead instructor for the program. “I can’t smell explosives when I’m walking down the road. These dogs can. If the [police officers] have something that can give them an indication that something is wrong, it can go a long way to help them out.” 

The police officers and their dogs both showed excitement as they began the training session with basic obedience techniques. Each officer practiced getting his dog to sit and stay in place. When the dogs performed, they were rewarded with a rubber chew toy and praise. Both handlers and dogs seemed to be catching on quickly, Nalley said. 

“I was thoroughly impressed with the way they have responded to their dogs. The dogs that they have want to be loyal and work with their handlers,” he said. “You can definitely tell that they are building their relationship with their dogs.” 

The trainers walked the dogs and handlers through a training lane to give the police officers hands-on skills that will benefit them as they use the dogs in their daily work. The training is event-driven. The handlers walk through a scenario with their dogs as the class instructor observes. As issues arise, the instructor stops the handlers and advises them on different techniques. 

“We try to do some basic obedience, and we plant some explosive training aids,” Nalley said. “If there are no issues during the training, we praise the teams for doing their job well. If there is something that we need to fine-tune, we’ll give them the direction that they need.” For the Iraqi police officers, this is the start of a long working relationship with their dogs. When asked why he chose to get involved with the program, one of the handlers said he has an affinity to dogs and sees them as a valuable resource to help in sustaining security and preventing attacks in his community. 

The overall goal of the program, Nalley said, is to have a program that is sustainable and productive after U.S. forces have withdrawn from Iraq. 

“We want to continue our partnership with the Iraqi police so that they get the training that they need to sustain their program long after we are gone,” he said.

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