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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Dubai Police's canine unit: the long nose of the law

From sniffing out explosives to searching for missing people, locating dead bodies and tracking suspects, Dubai’s canine police force have become a key part of fighting crime in the city.

The unit was established in March 1976 with six dogs and six trainers. Today, it has more than 58 dogs and 45 trainers and, during the first eleven months of this year, the hounds took part in 4,800 operations. Now, Dubai police are planning to expand their department of doggy detectives.

“Dubai police dogs play a significant role in providing and maintaining security across the emirate. The canine unit are trained in multiple specialities and have been used in criminal investigations for centuries,” said Lt Col Abdel Salam Al Shamsi, director of Dubai police canine unit.

German shepherd, Malinois, springer and Labrador pups are trained to detect crime from the age of 12 to 18 months old. For the first two weeks, they are played with and taught to respond to basic commands. Then the instincts of the new dogs, known as “green dogs”, are evaluated and they are trained to become specialised in one area. Sergeant Saeed Ahmed Abdullah, one of unit’s training supervisors, said the dogs receive daily training that is targeted at helping them to differentiate between the different substances they are required to track according to their specialism.

Dubai Police's dog unit help officers solve crime - Ben finds a pouch of illegal drugs, suspected to be hashish. Victor Besa / The National
Dubai Police's dog unit help officers solve crime - Ben finds a pouch of illegal drugs, suspected to be hashish. Victor Besa / The National

“The dogs train from 8am until 10pm on a daily basis. Each dog is trained for a specific task, such as detecting drug substances. Real drug substances are used during the training, including weed, opium and cocaine,” he said.

The police dogs are even able to smell fear and confusion among criminals. “Dog’s sense of smell is far more acute than that of humans as the nose of dogs contains about 250 million olfactory cells. There is no doubt that police dogs help to detecting crimes within a very short period of time,” said Lt Col Al Shamsi.

A few months ago, police officers solved a murder that took place in the desert in Al Warsan thanks to their sharp-nosed canine colleagues. Within ten minutes of arriving on the scene, the dogs had located both the murder weapon and the killer’s mobile phone, which contained evidence in the form of a photo of the victim that had been taken minutes before the murder.

In another recent case, they found the body of an Emirati man buried in the desert in Ras Al Khaimah, where it had been for five days.

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On Sunday, following the discovery of three bodies of men who had perished in a warehouse fire in Al Quoz, dogs were dispatched to ensure there were no undiscovered bodies and to help police find the cause of the fire.

Canine dog unit member Ben on "attack" mode. Victor Besa / The National
Canine dog unit member Ben on "attack" mode. Victor Besa / The National

They are able to do this sort of work because they have the ability to become highly-specialised and the dogs have recently started training to detect explosive materials. “Dogs detecting drugs and dogs detecting explosive materials are trained to behave differently to each other,” said Sergeant Abdullah. “For instance, dogs who detect drugs will tear the item or the box that contains drugs; however, dogs trained to detect explosive materials will sit down near to where they have found explosives.”

But it’s not all work. “Police officers and trainers at the canine unit build relationships with the dogs, especially because that dog has been trained from an early age,” said Sergeant Abdullah. Because being a super crime-fighting dog does not stop you being man's best friend.