The more obvious challenges faced when using dogs for detection of mines are issues such as training methodology, environmental factors, and operational procedures. Occupational health and general dog care may be given less attention, despite the obvious need to ensure good dog health and welfare. When a demining organisation decides to establish a Mine Detection Dog (MDD) capacity, they have already made a commitment to invest significant funds and resources in the dogs themselves. Like other demining assets, dogs need to be well looked after. Lack of attention to care of dogs will result in a reduced output and cost efficiency, and will raise questions about the credibility and reliability of MDD as a whole.
Dogs need to be well fed and well treated in order to perform successfully. A well-balanced diet increases resistance to disease. It also makes the dog stronger, increases its perseverance and interest during training and operations. Reduced performance of a dog reduces safety and cost effectiveness. Mine detection is hard physical work. MDD can be compared with human athletes, where training and diet, mental health, fitness, and preventive treatment against potential diseases and injuries are all vital for success.
IMAS 09.44 is a guide to occupational health and general dog care. It addresses all the basic health and dog-care requirements applicable to MDD worldwide. However, IMAS 09.44 is not a substitute for national standards or Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs). MDD are used under many different environmental conditions. It will therefore be necessary to adapt the principles of IMAS 09.44 to the local operational conditions, and it is the responsibility of national authorities and demining organisations using MDD to incorporate these principles into their national standards and SOPs.
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