For Regan Blogg, work has taken on a whole new meaning. The regular force soldier now spends his days mucking around with his two best mates - labrador Yardley and his springer spaniel Chuck. And it's all in the name of keeping defence personnel safe.
The former Temuka man is one of four handlers and five dogs to complete the first explosive detection dog (EDD) course. While a dozen dogs started the course, Mr Blogg was able to graduate with two of the five dogs now operational.
"It was something new and different," said the 23-year-old who applied to join the squad when it was first mooted.
It is a very different role to that of firefighter which he has had since joining the army three years ago.
He was initially matched with a german shepherd and a collie-cross - dogs he described as similar to "five-year-olds high on coke all the time", they were such a handful. As other dogs dropped out, his were re-assigned to other handlers, and replaced with an Australian-bred labrador - who "moans like an Aussie" - and a springer spaniel named Chuck.
The New Zealand Police Dog Training Centre helped develop the course, providing instruction, facilities and resources throughout the 12-week programme. The dogs are trained to detect the odour explosives give off.
"They have a high drive and want to get out there and do it. They love it. It's like Christmas Day for them when they find something," Mr Blogg explained.
While the work was not as physically demanding for him as firefighting, he does need to "read" his dogs' body language to know what they are likely to do.
The dogs have been trained to detect and indicate commercial, military and homemade explosive mixes.
Mr Blogg is not sure exactly what the future holds for him and his new best mates, but they will be at a training exercise at Waiouru in the coming weeks.
Some of the team will head to Afghanistan to support New Zealand operations there, carrying out search and detect tasks, supporting patrols, assisting with vehicle and compound searches, and monitoring camp access points.
"As the IED threat has evolved, so has our need to provide broader search and detect capabilities to ensure optimum force protection for personnel," Defence Force's commander of Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Dave Gawn said.
"Explosive detection military working dogs are proven to save lives and are widely used by our Nato partners. They are an invaluable asset, and search and detect capability."
- © Fairfax NZ News