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Uzbek canine centre celebrates 15th anniversary
Centre, which trains dogs for counter-terrorism and anti-drug operations, is the only one of its kind in Central Asia.
By Maksim Yeniseyev
TASHKENT – Uzbekistan’s National Canine Training Centre is marking its 15th anniversary as a key regional facility for training canine specialists and their service dogs.
"We have provided training for nearly 3,000 canine specialists and as many service dogs," the centre's senior inspector, Sherdor Tashkhudzhayev, said.
"Would-be inspectors are taught how to find illegal drugs, explosives and weapons; they learn the basic skills needed to fight terrorism and conduct investigative, patrol and rescue operations."
But, of course, the main focus is on training the dogs. Tahskhudzhayev said the centre trains a variety of breeds, including German shepherds, Rottweilers, Russian and English spaniels, and terriers.
Unit upgraded since its inception
The canine centre, the only one of its kind in today's Central Asia, was established in 1997 with assistance from the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and UN Drug Control Programme (now the UN Office on Drugs and Crime).
It wasn’t long before the dogs made a mark. "Inspectors and dogs trained at the canine centre took part in a 2000 military operation to wipe out terrorists hiding in the mountains in Tashkent and Surkhandarya oblasts," Tashkhudzhayev said. "They fulfilled their mission, despite the rugged high-elevation conditions."
After the WCO upgraded its status to that of a regional training centre in 2008, the Tashkent centre became the base for training canine specialists for Central Asia, Mongolia and Afghanistan.
"Kennel rearing starts at the 'puppy hall,' where instructors deal with young dogs," Tashkhudzhayev said. "It takes eight months to determine a dog's character; after that, the dogs are assigned for schooling in different specialties. Each dog becomes a real friend to only one specific instructor and follows him throughout his service."
The connection between a dog and its trainer is a crucial portion of the training, he said, because the two must remain compatible during their service together.
Various skills taught
Different skills require various lengths of time for dogs to learn. For example, it takes only two months to train a patrol dog, but four months to teach a dog to sniff out drugs or weapons. The most difficult canine specialty – tracking down terrorists and aiding in investigations – requires six months of instruction.
After completing the course, the guides and their dogs are assigned to customs check-points; to Interior, Emergency Situations and Defence Ministry units; or to National Security Service offices.
"In the 15 years of the centre's operation, Customs Committee canine specialists have stopped, with the help of their service dogs, nearly 2,000 attempts at drug smuggling across the border," Committee spokeswoman Mastura Abdullayeva said.
"In all, they have seized nearly three tonnes of narcotics over that time. Also, watchdogs have helped detain about 300 would-be traffickers of illegal weapons and ammunition," she said.
The canine service plays a special role in the work of the Chief Administration of Patrols and Public Order Enforcement (GUPPS/OOP).
Zhavlon Zhurayev, the GUPPS/OOP canine unit deputy chief, said dogs and their trainers are key in a variety of policing and counter-terror operations, including guarding valuable cargo, protecting sensitive locations, protecting travelers at airports and rail stations, and tracking down criminal suspects.
"Canine instructors undergo special training at the canine centre before enrolling for service with our agency," he said. "They practise police techniques on a mock-up railway coach, passenger airliner, bus and truck. Also, there is a specially equipped indoors training ground for instructing dogs in a very realistic setting.”
Unit reaches across the region
And the training centre is helping guards from across Central Asia.
In June, for example, the European Union’s Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA) used the facility to train 18 border guards from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
"The trainees learned some new methods of searching for drugs and explosives, shown to them by a colleague from Austria ," BOMCA Deputy Country Manager Zulfiya Sibagatullina said. "Each received a new dog from among 18 German shepherds brought to Uzbekistan specially for that training. After the end of the programme, the instructors and their dogs left for their respective countries to continue their border-control service."