Tekanpur is a small town in Madhya Pradesh
which has the distinction of hosting the National Training Centre for Dogs
(NTCD), under the Border Security Force (BSF). It trains dogs and handlers of
the BSF, various arms of the central and state paramilitary forces, state
police units and other law enforcement agencies from India and abroad.
Increasing anxieties about terrorism and insurgencies have led the Union government to step up its response and NTCD plays a pivotal role with its training programmes. The canine force can perform a wide range of tasks from tracking, explosives detection, mob control, search and rescue, narcotics detection, mine detection, poisonous substance detection, and as guide dogs for blind people and people with different abilities.
The dogs and their handlers stay at a quarantine facility near NTCD for 15 days, during which they pair up and bond with each other, spending almost the entire day together. The dogs are trained in basic commands, and those that are too aggressive or not healthy enough are eliminated from the programme. At NTCD, an instructor typically works with five handlers and their dogs at a time.
Forty-five-year-old Mohan Mondal and his 16-month-old German shepherd Gypsy have been together for the last 13 months, undergoing the nine-month- long tracker dog training at the centre. They’ve completed eight months of the programme.
“Gypsy was given to me when she was three months,” says Mohan. “I saw her running and playing as a pup and I fell in love with her. I went to my senior and requested that Gypsy be attached to me. Since then we’ve been together”.
He elaborates on her personality, “Gypsy is always eager to learn whatever I teach. She wants tasks and is always forthcoming to perform them.”
Assistant sub-inspector Balwant Singh, squad supervisor and trainer of Mohan and Gypsy, agrees. “Gypsy always wants to work. There are many dogs who take their time, but the moment you call Gypsy’s name, she gets ready”.
Mohan has one complaint. “On Sundays we don’t have training and everyone gets a day-off, but this irritates Gypsy. She doesn’t let me rest in peace until I do a few exercises with her”.
Pronoy Roy, another handler undergoing training, is from the Kolkata police. A dog lover, he was always surrounded by dogs in his house. His first was a Doberman named Sando and after Sando’s death, he brought home a German Shepherd and named him Sando too. Later he brought a bull mastiff home.
Now Pronoy has been with his German Shepherd Penny since she was two months old. In his eight years of service Pronoy has spent the last six years with the Kolkata Police dog squad. Penny is being trained as a tracker and she and Pronoy have completed seven months of the programme.
“Penny wasn’t responding well to the training and at six months she hadn’t learnt anything. I was upset and would break down during lonely nights in the barracks, but then I never pressured her. Instead I said ‘You take your time. I want to see how long you wait before you start responding’, and today we both share an inseparable bond.”
Penny closely watches every move that Pronoy makes and refuses to let him out of sight even for a moment. “Eye contact and bonding beyond words is very crucial,” explains Pronoy. “Sometimes we need to subdue someone on the streets who could get aggressive with us. With one glance we can instruct our dogs to act aggressive. Today Penny and I share this relationship.” He claims that Penny is the only one who can instantly figure out his moods.
Assistant sub-inspector Balwant Singh (centre, in a white T-shirt and beige trousers) is the squad supervisor. Along with another trainer, he instructs the handlers how to control and discipline their dogs.
More training materials used to motivate and teach the dogs.
Materials used in the training of dogs in search and rescue, infantry, explosives detection, and so on at NTCD, Some of these objects also act as toys which are given to the dogs as rewards on successful completion of their tasks.
A handlers and his dog undergoing training.
Handler Raja Ram Rebari gives instructions to Babli, a German Shepherd.
Seven-year-old gold medallist Labrador Basanti with her handler Bhagat Singh. Basanti is the star performer of NTCD and the oldest member from the canine family at the base. She’s been instrumental in cracking narcotics detection cases on multiple occasions, and is much loved by all at the base.
A dog watches his handler at the quarantine facility. Dogs and handlers spend entire days together to acclimatise to each other’s routines.
An obedience and skill demonstration performance at NTCD.