Army to add bite to LAC defence, is training native Ladakhi dogs for operational roles
New Delhi: The Army is training multiple native dogs of Ladakh for various operational roles as the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh continues to remain tense amid the ongoing stand-off with China, ThePrint has learnt.
The native breeds in Ladakh predominantly include the Bakharwal dog, colloquially called the Gaddi Kutta, the Tibetan Mastiff, mostly found in border areas, and even local feral dogs. The Bakharwal is descended from the Tibetan Mastiff.
“Native dogs of Ladakh are being locally trained and will used on a required basis for various functions,” an Army source told ThePrint.
A senior Army officer told ThePrint that when trained, the local Bakharwal dogs can act as good guard dogs at military posts to alert sentries and others in case of any intrusion.
“On training, they can also be employed as sled dogs at the icy heights of Ladakh for casualty evacuation,” the officer said, adding that a few dogs are being trained for the purpose.
The officer added that the local feral dogs could be used for mine detection on training as they have “very good sniffing powers”.
Native dog breeds are in focus as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his monthly Mann ki Baat radio address, had urged people to adopt Indian breeds if they planned to keep them as pets and had said the Indian Council of Agricultural Research is also conducting research on such dogs.
“I have been told that Indian breed dogs are very good and competent. Among the Indian breeds, Mudhol hound and Himachali hound are high pedigree dogs. Rajapalayam, Kanni, Chippiparai and Combai are also very good Indian breeds,” he had said.
He specifically had mentioned Sophie, a Cocker Spaniel, and Vida, a Labrador, who were involved in counter-infiltration and counter-terrorism operations, and were awarded with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) commendations during Independence Day celebrations this year.
Avalanche rescue, mine detection: roles played by dogs in Ladakh
Army sources told ThePrint that the force has dogs for explosives and mine detection in Ladakh and that they are deployed as and when required to secure lanes of communications in the forward areas.
Sources, however, clarified that the canines deployed in the Ladakh region are primarily avalanche rescue operations (ARO) dogs and are integral part of various search and rescue operations.
“Bestowed with a naturally gifted sense of smell, the ARO dogs can quickly detect the victims buried up to 20-30 ft of snow. During disasters, these silent warriors are looked upon as reliable saviours,” an Army source said.
“Primarily Labradors and German Shepherds are deployed in Ladakh due to extreme weather conditions for their thick coat,” an officer said.
“Until date, the Army dogs and Army dog trainers of Army Dog Units in Ladakh have been awarded 10 COAS and 07 GOC-in-C commendation cards for their contributions in search and rescue missions,” the officer added.
Speaking of mountain dogs, such as the Ladakhi breeds, animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi told ThePrint that most of them survive easily at a higher altitude.
“They are sturdy, have a thick coat and are acclimatised to cold and desolate conditions,” she said. “They are friendly with humans and also make for great shepherds. They are made to order for the hills.
“However, if kept in a warmer climate or in the plains, they suffer much and develop health problems that may be fatal,” he added.
‘Army dogs as force multipliers’
The Indian Army deploys dogs for eight different requirements — track, guard, mine detection, explosive detection, infantry patrol, AOR, search and rescue, assault and narcotic detection.
Senior Army officials told ThePrint that the dogs have had stellar operation success and act as force multipliers in various counter insurgency and counter terror operations. They have also saved lives during avalanches, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
According to data with the Army, the force’s dogs have contributed to at least 53 operational successes since July 2019. They include 30 instances of recovery of IEDs and explosives, five instances where they tracked and located terrorists leading to their killing, 14 instances where they contributed in the recovery of arms, ammunition and other war-like stores, and four instances where they have contributed in the rescue of live individuals and mortal remains in snow-bound areas.
There is also an increasing demand from friendly foreign countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and Cambodia for these dogs. Countries such as South Africa, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Seychelles have shown interest in getting their Army personnel trained in dog handling courses conducted by the Indian Army.