Strays turn over new leaf
Jun 26, 2003
Foo, the unwanted
'It's the most difficult job of my life,' says a police
dog-trainer. But the hard work will soon bear fruit. Twenty of
Bangkok's |stray dogs are ready to complete their training as new
guardians of Thailand's precious forests and wildlife
Veteran dog trainers from the Police Dog Command Department
wondered whether they had bitten off more than they could chew when
they accepted the task of turning a group of stray dogs into forest
Police Senior-Sergeant Major Manop Peerakham, who has worked
as a dog trainer for the K-9 police division for 17 years, could not
help but laugh when seeing Foo, a 2-year-old Thai Bangkaew, pay more
attention to the beautiful singing of a bird instead of his gunfire.
"It's the most difficult job of my life," he said grinning.
In February, Foo and his 19 stray companions were placed in
the training programme under a collaborative agreement between the
Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Varieties and the
Police Dog Command Division.
But it's not only the stray dogs that Manop and his team have
to train - 10 park rangers are being taught dog-handling so they can
put the dogs to work effectively after they complete their
After four months of obedience training on the small ground
of the National Parks Department, the dogs and their prospective
handlers were moved to Pra Bhuddhachai National Park, Saraburi, for
three days and two nights of field training.
As all of Manop's canine students were strays in Bangkok and
therefore only familiar with bustling streets, the beautiful scenery
of the park, the fertile forest, waterfall and lake, is an
unfamiliar world to them. They are enduring a tough training
schedule that begins at 5am and finishes at 10pm every day, but they
will also get a chance to relax so they can explore their new world
and become familiar with it.
If pass the final exam, these 2 Bangkaews will
work in Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary as assistants to a park
Before going to the park, all the dogs were taught to respond
perfectly to their handlers' instructions,
such as "sit", "wait" and "crouch down". The field trip is an
advanced course that will train them for sniffing and tracking.
However, here in the park the new environment, not the handler's
commands, is attracting their attention.
White, a stray dog with a doubtful background who was number
one in sniffing during the training in Bangkok, prefers to frolic
with the bags laid down in front of him instead of sniffing them.
His task, completely forgotten in the expansive surrounding, was to
find the only bag that contained a turtle.
Several mock situations are created to make the stray dogs
familiar with their future job. Turtles and snakes are being used to
help the dogs identify wildlife, while some police officers from the
canine division are playing the role of forest encroachers.
But Foo, instead of attacking the illegal logger, runs up to
the officers with tail wagging furiously. This was something of a
disappointment to his trainers who had hoped he would remember his
Khao, another stray who used to hang around the Royal Forest
Department and an area nearby on Phaholyothin Road for almost two
years, however, performs the task very well. At the moment his
handler says "go", Khao charges the "logger" and bites his hand
which is covered with thick glove until the handler shouts "stop".
According to Manop the different backgrounds of the two dogs
made the difference in this case.
Foo was not originally a stray dog, but a pedigree Thai
Bangkaew who once stayed in a nice home with a kind owner.
Unfortunately, because of the characteristics of the Bangkaew which
was bred to be a watchdog, Foo at times turned vicious and bit
neighbours. The owner had to pay thousands of baht to Foo's victims.
Eventually the owner ran out of patience and gave Foo to the
director general of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Varieties
Department to take part in the guard dogs programme.
Khao had always been a stray and nobody knows much about his
background. Royal Forest Department officials had seen him in the
department compound for two years.
"Khao has more experience with the world. He is always ready
for any challenges," Manop says. However, Foo performs better on the
last day of the field training programme. Manop says he just needed
time to adjust to the new environment.
Turning stray dogs into useful park rangers' assistants, is
quite different from training pedigree pooches for police work, says
Manop, who has spent his 17 years in the police force with the Dog
Command Department training alsatians.
Sniffing and tracking through the
"Alsatians [German Shepherds] and other pedigrees are
selected strains that have been bred to be trained. They have longer
concentration spans and more patience in training programmes than
these Thai stray dogs," he says.
The programme to turn stray dogs into forest guardians was
initiated by Somchai Piensathaporn, director general of national
parks. His idea follows the suggestion of His Majesty the King, who
said on his birthday last year that stray dogs could be trained to
assist police operations. Somchai believes stray dogs could be
turned into good assistants for park rangers too.
Pratuan Saengkratok, a park ranger from Salakpra Wildlife
Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi who is taking part in the handling
programme, expects a dog will help him a lot while patrolling the
"At least I will have more 'eyes' to help. When they smell
something strange they will warn us," he says.
For Pawang Chaivinij, from the Watershed Protection Division
in Udon Thani, a dog will be an "effective weapon" in his
operations. He says many park rangers do not have even a gun to
protect themselves while the illegal loggers and wildlife hunters
possess not only modern guns but also use dogs.
"Many times we have been bitten by those dogs. If we have our
own dog at least it can fight against their dogs," he says. All 20
stray dogs will undergo their final test at the end of June, after
which the successful graduates will become assistants to park
rangers and carry out their mission at national parks and wildlife
sanctuaries throughout the country. For those who fail, they will be
able to take another course in November.
Barking up the right
Mar 27, 2003
A pack of 20 stray dogs yesterday took their
first steps in becoming the new guardians of Thailandís national
forests and wildlife.
Inspired by His Majesty the King, who has spoken before about
tapping the potential of Thailandís street mutts, the Department of
National Forests, Wild Animals and Plants yesterday launched a
scheme to train the dogs to assist forestry officials on their
The departmentís director-general, Somchai Piansathaporn,
said the five-month programme, which was officially launched in
February, would also involve the training of 10 forestry officials
to become dog handlers.
The human students will be trained by officers from the
police canine unit.
Somchai said his department would set aside a budget of Bt2
million a year to fund the canine patrols and that at least 150
teams would be needed to cover the countryís 145 national
Yesterdayís opening ceremony was presided over by Plodprasop
Suraswadi, permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and
He said the dogs would also be trained to search for animals
so that they could help in the fight against the smuggling of
wildlife at airports and ports.