Pooches on patrol

Residential Estate Security Handbook 2016 - Vol 2 Residential Estate (Industry), Security Services & Risk Management

While most estates look to technology and security officers to deliver the security they desire, there is a growing trend to using dogs as a support to the much-maligned guard on patrol. Having a trained guard dog to accompany and assist security officers in their duties has been shown to reduce crime even more than having guards patrolling on their own.

The reason is logical. A dog’s senses are far more acute than humans and are able to pick up people hiding away easier than a person would, even in the dark of night. Dogs are therefore more proactive as a security deterrent than people or technology. According to Annette van Rensburg, a trainer and provider of security dogs, the dogs also support their guarding humans by providing a companion when they go into areas they may otherwise be fearful of.

With a dog on site, any activity happening in the vicinity will be noticed, most often before anyone else is aware that anything is wrong. Of course, putting dogs on patrol is not simply a matter of making a trip to the pet shop and buying a few cute mutts.

Security dogs need to be trained properly for their jobs, and the security officers who will be taking care of them also need to be trained in how to handle and take care of their companions. This includes feeding, attention and kennelling, as well as working together while on the beat.

Profiling pooch personalities

Van Rensburg started training security dogs in 1985 as a hobby and has seen her hobby become a business that grows every year as more organisations and estates realise the benefits of adding dogs to their security operations. The business of training and providing security dogs is not that easy, however, one must carefully select dogs suitable for the task and ensure they have the right profile to be guards.

Due to the lack of skills with respect to training and looking after dogs, Van Rensburg rents dogs to security operations over a number of years. She says organisations that only need a few dogs, between one and five for example, will find it easier and more cost effective to rent them. Part of the rental process in Van Rensburg’s company is training guards to care for their dogs, and her team visits the dogs regularly to check their kennels, health and to bring them food.

The rental option also supports the high staff turnover in the South African security industry, it allows dogs to be teamed with more than one person over their working life. This turnover is different to other countries, in Europe for example, where humans and dogs are paired for many years as both see their security role as a career rather than a stepping-stone.

This also restricts the type of dogs Van Rensburg trains, as some dogs bond with only one person (such as Boerbulls), while others can switch allegiance to a new companion (such as Rottweilers or German Sheppards).

Dogs are a cost-effective way to increase your security officers’ situational awareness as well as their effectiveness in securing an estate, and they provide support to their human companions while out on patrol. An ever-growing number of estates are opting to add canine guards to their payroll as an additional preventative measure that is alert and aware of things, and able to raise the alarm long before humans are able to realise anything may be out of the ordinary.

For more information contact Annette van Rensburg, Security Dogs, +27 (0)11 804 1976, secdogs@mweb.co.za

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