Sporting their new coats in support of the Air Force Centenary, a group of puppies have started training for their future military careers.
Since their first yelp, only about eight weeks ago, these pups have been in a quarantined environment while they get vaccinated and microchipped.
Now out of quarantine, they have begun their intensive training program at RAAF Security and Fire School at RAAF Base Amberley.
Canine Breeding Manager at the school, Sarah Fyffe, said this was an important stage for the puppies.
“After quarantine, for about six to seven weeks, these pups will be exposed to carefully structured play-based training, which becomes the foundation of all aspects of military working dog training,” Ms Fyffe said.
“These pups are encouraged to be bold and confident during these sessions, as they imprint the behaviours, which will ultimately prepare them to respond well to future training.
“During this time, training is a game and very enjoyable to the pups but they are actually learning a number of skills, including to be confident in all environments, build drive to chase, retrieve, search and bite, and to detect scent.”
Ms Fyffe said training slowed down when the pups reached teething.
“When the pups reach their teething stage at about 12 to 13 weeks, training is reduced, but environmental enrichment, independence and confidence is still encouraged,” she said.
During this time, pups are also placed with a family for 12 weeks as part of a foster program, forming an integral part of their growth.
“Placing the pups into a family setting exposes them to a safe and stimulating environment in which a young puppy can grow to fulfil its potential,” Ms Fyffe said.
“The family, also referred to as a ‘puppy carer’, renders an invaluable public service by raising each puppy into a happy, healthy, vigorous and prospective military working dog. And our breeding cell staff are there every step of the way to monitor the pups.”
At six months old the pups enter the development program where they remain until they begin the military working dog basic course and get paired up with their future handler and possibly move on to operational duties.
All puppies are closely monitored throughout this process. If they are not performing well enough to be a military working dog, they are assessed for other duties, such as explosive detection or assistance. If they are not suited to these tasks they will be homed as family pets.
In addition to their training, the pups regularly appear at community events, including Anzac Day, NAIDOC week and the Avalon Air Show.
Throughout 2021, they will be supporting the Air Force Centenary with their new coats.
Air Force has been training working dogs for more than 60 years. Since its inception in 2003, the breeding program has produced more than 1000 pups, with about half of them graduating.
Planning is underway for the commemoration of the Royal Australian Air Force’s formation in March 1921. Further information may be obtained at www.airforce.gov.au/100