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Canine combatants set to be let off the leash

By Cui Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-13 08:33

Canine combatants set to be let off the leash

A trainer encourages his dog to leap through a ring of fire at the People's Liberation Army's dog training center in Beijing. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

At a base in Beijing, army dogs are being trained to participate in special operations undertaken by the People's Liberation Army. Cui Jia reports.

Allen crept forward in complete silence, his eyes locked on a tent about 50 meters away. As a special member of the People's Liberation Army, his natural talents enabled him to sense the enemy hiding inside the tent, which is something his partner, Yang Yuhai, will never be able to do, no matter how hard he trains.

When Allen had closed in on the tent and was certain the target was inside, he stood up without a sound. That was the signal for Yang, who had stayed behind, to move forward as quickly as possible, so the 26-year-old soldier ran towards Allen and pointed his rifle at the tent.

He shouted and called on the enemy to surrender. Allen then began to bark frenziedly to intimidate the target, who chose to run instead of giving himself up. Clearly, it was not a good move to make in front of an army dog. At Yang's command, Allen attacked the target and dragged him to the ground, his powerful jaws clamped around the man's arm.

That is just one of the daily routine training sessions that Allen and Yang, an army dog trainer, regularly tackle together at China's only base that breeds and trains dogs especially for the PLA. The "enemy" was played by another trainer, who wore protective gear, without which his arm would have been fractured by the powerful jaws of the Belgian Malinois, one of several breeds the PLA uses in its activities.

Founded in 1985, the base in Beijing currently has more than 700 dogs undergoing training. It costs 15,000 yuan a year ($2,181) to train, feed and accomodate each dog.

The PLA has decided that four-legged Special Forces will play a more important role in military operations in the future, so training programs have been adjusted to resemble actual combat situations as much as possible.

"The duties of army dogs in China are shifting from guarding military sites, patrolling borders and search-and-rescue missions to actual combat and counterterrorism," said Zhang Ke, the director of training at the base.

Special soldiers

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