A sniffer dog is put through the paces during a Dubai Police K9 squad demonstration at Global Indian International School (GIIS) in Al Barsha, Dubai. Image Credit: GIIS

DUBAI: The Global Indian International School (GIIS) in Al Barsha was in for a surprise on its annual sports day on Thursday, when a fun activity got under way on its manicured greens.

Just when four students sat on four chairs for an ostensible game, a man in uniform with a German Shepherd dog was seen approaching them.

As the crowd wondered what was going on, the sniffer dog stopped short at one of the chairs. It turned out, there was an illegal substance under the chair, which was promptly identified by the canine.

It is important to convey this message to the students as they are the first targets for drug dealers and peddlers.

- Colonel Aref Abdullah | Director of the Dubai Police K9 squad

The seemingly fun activity, in which the illegal substance was deliberately kept under the chair, was Dubai Police’s way of putting across a strong message to the student community: do not think you can hide drugs or any other illegal substance from the Dubai Police, our sniffer dogs will surely find them.

Speaking to Gulf News, Colonel Aref Abdullah, director of the Dubai Police K9 squad, who was the chief guest at the function, said, “It is important to convey this message to the students as they are the first targets for drug dealers and peddlers. Through such social activities, we want to show students that dogs have a strong sense of smell and are specially trained to sniff out illegal items, including narcotics and explosives.”

He said the Dubai Police K9 Squad regularly visits schools to raise awareness and reassure the community that its safety and security are top priority.

The K9 dogs, which performed many tricks and stunts for the students, also demonstrated their skills in nabbing a man, who had apparently stolen a suitcase from another person. The aim of the exercises was to make students — and parents — understand that the police canine squad is not a fun, acrobatic group, but rather a professional unit trained in multiple specialities to assist in criminal investigations.

Dubai Police officials with one of the professionally trained dogs from the K9 squad. The police dogs performed a series of stunts that left both children and parents gobsmacked. Image Credit: GIIS

Abdullah said the dogs not only help detect illegal substances and nab suspects and criminals, but also find missing persons, stolen items and crime scene evidence, besides conduct checks in airports and other public places.

He said the K9 unit has 100 dogs. The main breeds include German Shepherds, Labradors, Malinois and Springer Spaniels, all of which have been extensively trained to perform a variety of functions.

Dog training, a career option?

Asked if detector dog handling makes for a good career option for students, he said, “Why not? They should also look at becoming good police officers.”

To the same question, Ramesh Mudgal, principal, GIIS, said, “Students who love animals and dogs in particular can surely pursue this as their profession. Training an animal requires many skills and excellent trainers are rewarded well for their skills and they also play a crucial role in keeping the city and country safe.”

The exposure to the K9 dogs was an enriching experience for the school.

Mudgal said, “Events like these not only help students respect the brave people who risk their lives to protect ours, but also realise the importance of animals in keeping our lives safe. I would like to thank Colonel Aref for obliging us with his presence and teaching our students an important lesson.”

Thrilling experience

Malvika Mungre of Grade 5 said, “The canine show was absolutely incredible and amazing. It showed how dedicated the UAE government is to ensure safety of residents and citizens. I liked the trick when one of the dogs was able to identify a person by name although it was mentioned only once. The dogs can sense fear and track people.”

Parnika Dahiya from Grade 4 said, “It was a thrilling experience. I certainly did not know that dogs could perform such amazing tricks. The dogs were very disciplined and followed every instruction. The dogs were performing different tricks such as finding the right colour of the cone and understanding who the thief is.”

Youngsters a prime target

As far as drug peddlers go, no child is too young to be a customer. Last year, the 484 drug addicts who were rehabilitated at the Erada Centre for Treatment and Rehab in Dubai included a 10-year-old child.

Dubai-based clinical psychologist Dr Rory McCarthy said: “At one time, I consulted 12 to 15 teenagers for various problems every month, and they had all done drugs at least once. You name it and they had tried it.”

She said, “The basic thing with drugs or substances is that they give you a buzz. Young children who

are impressionable take it to feel good, boost self-esteem, assert themselves or out of boredom, curiosity and peer pressure,” said

Dr McCarthy. “They don’t think of the consequences.”

According to Erada, 70 per cent of addicts who went through the drug rehab programme were aged between 18 and 29 years, with some having abused drugs much earlier.

The centre has stressed on the dire need for monitoring children from the age of 10 to 18, besides holding regular awareness programmes in schools for students.