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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Appendix C: Mine Detection Dogs

To Walk the Earth in Safety: The United States Commitment to Humanitarian Demining
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
November 2001

Mine detection dog and handler teams undergo extensive training before deployment to mine-affected countries.

Demining takes place in many different countries with a wide range of program capacities, as well as unique terrain and cultural situations. While no single solution will be successful in all demining scenarios, combinations of demining methods and detection technologies generally increase safety and efficiency while helping to achieve international humanitarian demining clearance standards. The addition of mine detection dogs (MDD) to a demining program has proven to be one solution that works in many different scenarios and is particularly effective when combined with some manual and mechanical detection and clearance techniques.

Dogs' olfactory capacity for finding explosives has proven to be highly effective. MDDs are trained to detect explosive odor signatures like TNT, the scent of monofilament line, or metallic wire used in booby traps and mines, or any of these combinations. Dogs are also trained to ignore other odors and distractions, and are rewarded each time they alert their handler of an odor on which they have been trained. The initial training lasts eight to 10 weeks and is followed by another eight to 10-week period of advanced training as the MDDs bond with their handler. This period also allows the dogs to acclimatize to the country in which they have been chosen to work. The MDDs extensive training and detection capabilities make them crucial to the identification of nonmetallic or plastic-cased mines, demining activities near or on steel bridges and railroad tracks, and deployment in iron-bearing laterite soils which render metal detectors virtually ineffective.

Mine detecting dogs have proven to be highly effective, mobile, efficient, and affordable. Dogs are able to work in about 90 percent of the terrains where humans operate, whereas flails, rollers, and sifters are only able to operate in a fraction of that amount due to design and material limitations. Moreover, dogs are environmentally friendly when working on agricultural lands or urban areas, unlike machinery and explosive charges, which can disturb and destroy areas where they are used.

Mine detection dogs are accepted by the landmine community as a valuable and reliable demining tool. In many situations, when combined with manual and/or mechanical demining techniques, mine detection dogs can greatly expedite the return of mine-affected land, infrastructure, and other facilities to a safe and useful condition in a highly cost-effective manner.

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