Skip to main content

A dog’s world

The arrival of the P-8As at Base Ohakea has sped up the establishment of Security Forces Military Working Dog (MWD) teams to enhance the security at the base and provide increased force protection capability for Air Force and Defence Force assets.

12 May, 2023

The dogs have settled in their temporary home on the base while their permanent accommodation is completed for them and their handlers. 

Once built, the working canines will be kept in a purpose-built facility with 12 kennels, enough to house eight working dogs and an isolation block, near the Biggin Hill Hangar, Military Working Dog Co-ordinator Sergeant (SGT) Gareth Havill said.  

It will feature large equipment storage areas, exercise yards and CCTV along the kennel lines to monitor canine activity. It will also have a hydrotherapy pool for the dogs – a conditioning and rehabilitation feature as part of the overall facility for them to swim in that will be easier on their joints. The new facility is expected to end up with eight working dogs and their handlers, plus senior supervisors, SGT Havill said. 

The working dog teams will be providing security for the military air base, but will also get opportunities to be deployed with Air Force assets to provide force protection on exercises and missions overseas, SGT Havill said. 

One of the handlers at Ohakea, Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Rommanee Scully works with MWD Alita. 

After graduating from recruit course, LAC Scully was attracted to the trade because of the amount of work that goes into working with the dogs. 

“It’s a lot of work, but it pays off at the end of the day.” 

The military working dogs are obedient, with high drive levels for different aspects of the job, she said. 

“My MWD Alita is very energetic and always keen to work – she’s almost always in work mode. I take her out for a walk and she’s constantly alert. It’s one of the ideal traits we want in our dogs, that they have a high work drive and focus.” 

The working dogs were able to switch from working mode, where they have a level of controlled aggression and alertness, to being calm and friendly when they were off-duty, LAC Scully said. 

The new Dog Section hasn’t long been at Ohakea and the teams were still settling in, with the dogs continuing with operational readiness training. 

“We’ve still got to keep that standard we reached on course, so still having to train them on their bite work or obedience. Just anything we can – any small thing that needs to be worked on, we do that. 

“It’s different every day. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Alita. She’s very keen to work so it would be good once all the P-8As arrive. I look forward to experiencing that with her,” LAC Scully said.