ARARAT - Members of Corrections Victoria, Victoria Police and the Australian Army joined forces in Ararat last week for a four day tri service dog training exercise - the first of its kind.
The training, initiated by Corrections Victoria, was held at the Ararat NMIT facility and grounds from last Thursday through to Sunday.
The workshop provided each agency with exposure to new skills, trainers and knowledge as well as helping to foster better working relationships between them.
Corrections Victoria's supervisor Security and Emergency Services Group (SESG) at Hopkins Correctional Centre Rick Kaliszewski said the workshop involved personnel from Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria and an Australian military unit from Queensland.
He said the groups undertook two days of bite development work for the dogs, which included training to bite on a specially designed bite suit before the latter two days were spent putting what they had learnt into practice.
"The dogs are trained to search for people, and to target different areas of the body when biting because from an operational point of view sometimes it isn't ideal for them to bite an arm, it may be better to bite the leg or back," he said.
The agencies also completed riot control exercises where they were required to demonstrate how they would control an unruly group and to negotiate the removal of an armed person from a prison cell.
At least 12 dogs, either German shepherds or malinois, a type of Belgian shepherd all under two years of age were involved in the training.
General Purpose Service Dogs from each agency are trained primarily to do the same exercises. However, each agency deploys their dogs in a different manner to meet their own operational requirements.
"The general purpose prison dogs are trained here at Ararat because we have a great venue where we can use public and private land at Aradale," Mr Kaliszewski said.
Prisoners and visitors continue to find all sorts of ways to try and smuggle contraband into prison so corrections officers constantly review and update how they detect contraband to stay one step ahead.
Measures include the use of drug detection dogs, extensive searching, random and targeted drug urine testing of prisoners, intelligence operations, and advanced technology such as ion scanners.
Corrections Victoria's statewide coordinator for multi-purpose dog training Hans Holz said the success of last week's exercise was important given the expense involved with participants travelling from as far away as Queensland.
"We try to get the newer members from each squad to be involved first to develop bite work and gain their confidence," he said.
"We also make sure we have young dogs just starting their career, none of them were over two years of age."
Mr Holz said the benefits from having the three agencies join together couldn't be underestimated.
"You could not get a better outcome than having other people training alongside you with the same objective but a different outlook of dealing with a situation," he said.
"The huge advantage is that you are training and learning all the time, no matter how old you are. You are also developing a network to further your learning."
The SESG has 15 dogs in total; 12 drug detection dogs, one to detect mobile phones and two specifically trained to detect the drug buprenorphine.
The SESG is currently training a further four dog handlers and dogs to detect buprenorphine.
A further workshop involving the three agencies is scheduled for Ararat in February next year with tracking dogs from agencies from across Australia expected to take part.