Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 1, 2017 Contents 60 Defence Issue 1 2017
If you are a looking for a four-legged friend but don’t want a total
commitment then adopting a RAAF puppy might be the answer
XCITED puppies run out of their
cage, swarming me after their door
opens. One of the Malinois pups
runs off and starts exploring, two
sniff my boots while another bites
my boot laces and doesn’t plan on letting go.
It’s difficult to imagine these seven-week-old
pups as military working dogs chasing down
airfield intruders, but they have already started
their training at the canine breeding section of
the RAAF Security and Fire School at RAAF
Apart from breeding puppies, the section
puts the aspiring working dogs through a pro-
gram exposing them to things such as gunfire,
jet noise and children.
Puppies are taught to walk on leads, chase
balls and prey-bite their toy as opposed to han-
Canine Breeding Manager Stephen Cannon
says the program shapes puppies’ natural be-
haviours for future work.
“If a guy comes too close, the dog might bite
and that’s a defensive behaviour,” he says.
“If someone runs and the dog chases them,
that’s a prey behaviour. If the dog gets the guy
down and hooks in, that’s a fighting behaviour.
“These are all natural behaviours, we just
pigeon-hole them with a name.”
The section was originally set up to produce
five to six litters a year, but it is now doing 10-
12 litters, which totals about 80 puppies.
Corporal Samantha Luck works in the
section as a Puppy Development Officer, but is
sometimes called on to be a puppy midwife.
“The bitch during the first birth I did was
quite calm and she let me sit in there the whole
time,” she says.
“Steve was mentoring me, showing me what
I had to do, what to look for and other veteri-
During his time at the section, Stephen has
helped deliver more than 800 puppies, but says
the experience hasn’t become boring.
“Each time they have babies it still excites
me,” he says. “The arrival of new life is always
eventful and rewarding, and every now and then
you get to save a life or help along a poor-doing
The section breeds German and Dutch shep-
herds but is mostly focused on Malinois, a type
of Belgian shepherd.
“Malinois want to please you, hop on your
lap and do things like that. They’re gregarious,
some would say naughty,” Stephen says.
“German shepherds can be a little bit aloof.
They can take you or leave you.”
Malinois have become the dog of choice for
police and militaries around the world, accord-
ing to Stephen.
“Even the German police breed Malinois
now, which is quite amazing – but that’s be-
cause their success rates are better,” he says.
Samantha says she sometimes gets attached
to the puppies, particularly the ones she’s had to
“By 12 weeks of age we’re happy to see
them progress to the next stage of training and
they’re getting to that terror stage and we’ve
generally got litters following behind them,” she
“This is the busiest job I’ve ever done.
There’s so much more than what you’d perceive
as training puppies or playing with puppies. It’s
so much more in-depth.”
Residents of South-East Queensland who
would like to be involved in the program can
foster a puppy.
At 12 weeks, puppies are sent to foster
families until they reach about eight months and
come back to start serious working dog training.
Samantha says the puppies usually fit well
into foster families.
“We had a phone call from one carer saying
Corporal Max Bree
the puppy was sleeping with their dog on the
first night curled up in the same bed,” she says.
Both military personnel and civilians can
become puppy foster carers after their premises
are checked by Security and Fire School staff.
“We’re looking for people to have about a
1.8m fence and secure gates,” Samantha says.
“You need to have a large enough environ-
ment for the dogs not to be cooped up all day
and they can’t get out under the fence. These are
Service dogs and they’re very agile.”
Carers are provided with equipment such as
a lead, harness, car safety restraint, toys, food
“Anything they need for the dog we will
issue it to them,” Samantha says. “If the dog de-
stroys a toy, they can call us and we’ll replace it.
We also look after their tick and flea medication
along with worming every month.”
A staff member is on call 24 hours to help
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