On the ground to sniff out trouble

Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wenxiong leads Esso through a training session at Mowbray Camp. The dog sniffs at various cars, and sits when it reaches a red one, indicating that it has detected a bomb.
Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wenxiong leads Esso through a training session at Mowbray Camp. The dog sniffs at various cars, and sits when it reaches a red one, indicating that it has detected a bomb.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN
Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wenxiong leads Esso through a training session at Mowbray Camp. The dog sniffs at various cars, and sits when it reaches a red one, indicating that it has detected a bomb.
Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wenxiong leads Esso through a training session at Mowbray Camp. The dog sniffs at various cars, and sits when it reaches a red one, indicating that it has detected a bomb.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN
Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wenxiong leads Esso through a training session at Mowbray Camp. The dog sniffs at various cars, and sits when it reaches a red one, indicating that it has detected a bomb.
Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wenxiong leads Esso through a training session at Mowbray Camp. The dog sniffs at various cars, and sits when it reaches a red one, indicating that it has detected a bomb.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN

Holding its leash, Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wenxiong led Esso, a two-year-old german shepherd, towards a carpark at Mowbray Camp near Choa Chu Kang.

The canine sniffed at the various cars, checking out the tyres and boots of the vehicles. But on reaching a red car, Esso did not take long sniffing the vehicle before it stopped and sat on its hind legs - a sign that something was not right.

A check uncovered an explosive - albeit a dummy device - near the car's front bumper. The demonstration involving Esso yesterday showed the outcome of a 12-week training programme that is compulsory for all sniffer dogs.

These canines are part of the police patrols that have been intensified at MRT stations and bus interchanges during this festive season.

The dog training starts when they are 18 months old. Among the skills they learn are how to sniff out drugs or explosives in various situations and places. The training scenarios include major terror incidents in other countries that involved explosives but modified to fit the Singapore situation.

The dog handlers train with the canines to bond with them. Every year, these dogs are put through their paces and they must pass the test. SS Sgt Wong, 34, who has had six dogs before Esso in his 12 years in the force, said rookie Esso finished its training two weeks ago.

He said he gives lots of praises and pats to Esso so that it will look confident when they go on patrol. "But when an MRT station is quiet with few commuters, I will play 'fetch the ball' with Esso. It helps it to feel comfortable in the surroundings that it is working in."

Aw Cheng Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2017, with the headline 'On the ground to sniff out trouble'. Print Edition | Subscribe