Operational testing of mine detection dogs and handlers

  • Version
    Ed. 2, Amendment 3
  • Creation
    23 May 2018

Although a dog’s ability to detect mines varies as a function of several factors, including the training method and inherent qualities of the dog, independent operational testing of the detection ability of Mine Detection Dogs (MDD) did not start until 1999 in Bosnia. Experience from independent and national tests suggests that the overall quality of mine detection by dogs increases when MDD operators are subject to testing.

The greatest challenge to independent operational testing of MDD is to create a test that is as representative of the operational situation as possible. A test will always be slightly artificial. For example, mines laid for testing may differ from those available operationally because removal of detonators from test mines allows explosive odour to leak more freely. Test minefields are often laid more recently than operational minefields, leading to differences in odour availability and evidence of recent burial, especially in hard packed soils. Test minefields tend to be used repeatedly, which could allow MDD and handlers to learn the position of mines rather than using odour for detection.

Human factors are also relevant. The stress of testing may cause the handler to misread the MDD signals, or to work the dog improperly. The test therefore needs to be fair, unambiguous, and easily conducted and managed.

This standard provides National Mine Action Authorities (NMAA) and demining organisations with specifications and guidelines on:

a) MDD operational test site selection, preparation and maintenance;

b) Management and control of the MDD operational test process;

c) MDD operational test procedures; and

d) Management of MDD operational testing records.

The standard is designed primarily for operational testing of MDD required to work in areas that have not been processed in any other way.

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