Canine lovers have a special reason to tune into the 67th Republic Day Parade on January 26 as the entire country will rise to salute the contributions of the Indian Army’s canine division this year. The Army, which has about 1,200 Labradors and German Shepherds, has chosen the best contingent of 36 dog Commandos and their handlers (24 Labradors and 12 German Shepherds) who will march down Rajpath for the first time in 26 years. The first rows of the marching squad Mafia, Panzer, Dhoom, Romeo, Dodge and Cobbler, with their buddy canines have saved the lives of numerous soldiers in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, and have been rehearsing over four months for the parade. The squad has a mix of German Shepherds and Black/Golden Labradors, including eight female canines that have been neutered for operational reasons.
The 67th Republic Day parade 2016 will also be celebrating special moments as for the very first time the French President Francois Hollande will be the chief guest and the French contingent will participate in the march past together with the Indian armed forces.
The dogs, aged between two and four years, have been trained for specialized tasks such as assault, patrolling, sniffing out explosives and tracking down terrorists. These special dogs each have files which are maintained by the army and they are a member of the armed force. The 36 dog commandos who have made it to the contingent, and nine more who are on the standby, have had their records checked up thoroughly. The Army Dog Squad is part of the Indian Territorial Army.
The canines have a different style of drill from regular marching contingents. It requires perfect synchronization and precision to lead the dog in perfect synchronization as they may do a tug- of- war with the leash. The handlers carry biscuits in their pockets to reward their dogs after the parade. The initial training of both dogs and their handlers is done in the dog training school which was raised on March 1, 1960 at Meerut. Basic and advanced training on specialized jobs like explosive detection, mine detection, tracking, guarding and assaulting is imparted at the Remount and Veterinary Corps (RVC) Centre and College.
In the field of work Labradors are preferred for sniffing and tracking out explosives as they are calm and intelligent. The slightest scratching by the dog can set off a hidden explosive and can take lives. The aggressive German Shepherds are used mainly for assault and guarding.
After they debut at the parade, the canines will be assigned to operational units in the Northeast and Jammu & Kashmir where their forefathers have brought pride and have been lauded with awards for exploits on the battlefield. The bonding between the handlers and their dogs become intense over time, as they share the burden of operations, especially when it comes to duties like Counter Insurgency (CI), Counter Terrorism (CT).
The role of Mansi, a four-year-old Labrador, and her Kashmiri master Bashir Ahmed War from the Territorial Army (TA) were in the news last August as they died while fighting a group of heavily-armed infiltrators in the high altitude area along the Line of Control (LoC) in Tangdhar sector.
The Army dogs and their trainers of this Corps have won one Shourya Chakra, six Sena Medals, 142 COAS Commendation Cards, six VCOAS Commendation Cards and 448 GOC-in-C Commendation Cards.The motto of the Corps is ‘Pashu Seva Asmakam Dharm’.