They are quick, tensed, ready to rush into any mission and extremely cute. They are also man’s best friends. Meet the IAF Dog Handling Center, in which the dogs that protect IAF personnel and assets, are raised, trained and nurtured

Eliya Levitan | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida

Jaguar tensely waits besides her operator. In a moment he will give the sign and she will be sent on a mission to locate explosives. She knows that she will be commanded to pounce any second and although her operator instructs her to sit down, her legs are ready to pounce. And then the operator points, marks the area she needs to scan and releases her from her leash. Jaguar pounces into the area and in seconds locates the smell and points at the opening of a black pipe with her paw and doesn’t move from it until her operator arrives and frees her. “Good dog Jaguar”, he pets her and sends her to the next point. At the end of the exercise, after Jaguar quickly located all of the targets, she receives the ultimate prize, the operator throws her a colorful ball which she runs around with and carries out what the dog handling center calls a “Victory Lap”.

Hand in Paw: Meet the Dogs that Protect the IAF

Photography: Ayelet Eder

Not Only Technology
“It may seem like the IAF only deals with aviation and technology, but there is a very significant aspect of ground defense, with the mission of defending our soldiers and assets”, explains SRGT. Adi Talan, who is responsible for Explosive Detection and Research and Development in the IAF Dog Handling Center in Hazor AFB.

The center is divided into four teams: the first being the sniffer team, which was the nucleus of the Handling Center and in which soldiers from the IAF and IDF are trained to work with the dogs. Two other teams are the Explosive Detection team, which trains soldiers to operate dogs that specialize in detecting explosives and are sent to protect large events, large scale ceremonies and location missions and the Research and Development team.

Hand in Paw: Meet the Dogs that Protect the IAF

Photography: Ayelet Eder

Everything Begins in the Puppy Center
There is also the Puppy team, whose purpose is to train, tame and nurture the dogs from birth. There are trainers and tamers in the team, as it is responsible for taking care of the puppies and mothers, for the dogs initial taming and for different types of training. “Everything begins in the Puppy Center, without it there wouldn’t be any dogs for the IAF. Their activity is amazing and the girls in the puppy center work so hard, around the clock. Thanks to the puppy center, we bring our dogs to an extremely high level in a short time and we can fulfill the force’s operational needs”, explained SRGT. MAJ. Arlet Bachar, the Puppy Center Commander.

Hand in Paw: Meet the Dogs that Protect the IAF

Photography: Ayelet Eder

The center works in cooperation with the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, which sent a professor who, in cooperation with the center’s soldiers, researches the dog’s behavior and the instilment of new abilities. “We work in cooperation with HQ. According to the demand and needs of the force, we research, are assisted by experts in dog training and biology, examine the dog’s behavior and check if they have the required abilities, or if they need to learn new ones”, explained Lt. (Res.) Anna Kuza, who serve until recently as the Center Commander.

As a part of the research, the center managed to develop abilities such as sniffing, explosive detection and protection of assets – a new development which is begging to take its place in the IAF. “We took an idea that came from HQ and transformed it into an operational ability”, concluded SRGT. Talan.

Hand in Paw: Meet the Dogs that Protect the IAF

Photography: Ayelet Eder

24/7
The center’s operators’ routine revolves completely around the dogs 24 hours a day. In the puppy center in which the newborn puppies require much attention and patience and in the infirmary in which all of the dog’s needs are answered. Every soldier is paired with a dog in the beginning of his training period, which he/she works with throughout his/her military service. The soldier is responsible for providing all of the dog’s needs and in the center, among other things, the soldiers work on strengthening the bond and connection between the operator and his dog. “The soldiers always put the dogs’ needs before theirs”, explained MSTR. SRGT. Bachar. “The girls in the puppy center wake up before the dogs and go to sleep after them, feed puppies all night and take care of the mothers. We always make sure that the dogs have everything they need”.

Hand in Paw: Meet the Dogs that Protect the IAF

Photography: Ayelet Eder