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NZDF adopts dog mannequin for canine trauma training

New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) military working dog handlers are breaking new ground in using a special canine mannequin to practise administering first aid to an injured animal.

04 June, 2024

Fourteen handlers, combat medics and kennel staff are undergoing the introduction into service of the mannequin.

The star of the training, held recently at Linton Military Camp, was the realistic-looking K9 Hero mannequin – built to resemble the Belgian Malinois breed - that can bark, whimper and bleed at the press of a button.

The NZDF is the only working dog organisation in New Zealand that uses this type of equipment as part of emergency first aid training.

NZ Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) personnel are being trained using scenarios they may encounter while deployed overseas – such as military working dogs suffering shotgun wounds.

Hero 1

Alan Inkpen, the NZDF Military Working Dog Capability Manager, said personnel were taught how to triage and stabilise an injured dog.

“We’re not expecting handlers to become veterinarians, but rather have the required skills to help them keep their four-legged colleague alive so that it can be transferred out to receive specialised care.”

The K9 Hero mannequin is made by Tauranga-based emergency training product maker PracMed NZ.

Managing Director Simon Carkeek said the mannequin allowed handlers to practise packing wounds, check for a pulse, airway management, intubation, breathing response and CPR.

Combined with flexible joints, bag ventilators which cause the chest to rise and fall, bleeding wounds and other features, dog handlers and medics can respond to medical situations.

The K9 Hero is operated by a hand-held controller which monitors in real-time the effectiveness of treatment of things such as pulse rate, strength and bleeding.

Hero 2

NZ Army Sapper Rigel Blanchet, an explosive detective dog handler based at Linton, said the K9 Hero mannequin brings a sense of realism to medical training which is crucial for preparing a handler for a real life scenario.

“This is my first introduction to canine trauma training and my first time using this type of mannequin. Being able to physically insert a needle into a mannequin’s vein and set up an intravenous line is very different from just learning the theory of how to do it.

Being able to help your dog when it’s in distress is vital – and having the knowledge to provide first aid and stabilise your canine teammate may mean the difference between life and death.

RNZAF military working dog handler Aircraftman William Middleton said the course is designed to reinforce existing medical skills as well as learning how to manage trainings scenarios so they can train others.

“In the Air Force, the primary focuses of our patrol dogs are base and asset protection and security. The training that we’re receiving is highly beneficial to us because in that security role we could come across threats that not only harm us but our dogs.”