Treo, dogs and war
With the dearth of secondhand bookshops I often find myself drawn to remaindered shops. As is often the case when visiting Sandpiper in Brighton’s North Laines I discovered a lovely book in the back room £1 section. This fascinating read explores the relationship between Dave Heyhoe and his sniffer dog Treo and the role that this relationship played in detecting unexploded bombs in Afghanistan.
The same features of training initiated by Colonel Edwin Richardson during the 1914 -18 war are present today. Richardson believed that working with animals required a special gift in the instructor, particularly choosing men who were fond of dogs and thus who would be able to relate productively towards dogs. The building of a relationship was key. Dogs needed to be trained. More importantly so did handlers working with them. Significantly Richardson’s book on the topic emphasised understanding rather than control as seen in its title: British War Dogs, Their Training and Psychology. So effective was his approach that it was also used in the 1939 – 45 war and beyond.
Dave Heyhoe clearly experienced similar approaches in training to those advocated by Richardson. By way of contrast Heyhoe noted that US dogs were routinely kept on a leash since they were trained to both find arms and explosives but also to chase, bring down and hold a suspect. British training differentiated between the two tasks with dogs being encouraged to follow their own nose and intuition being off lead while searching for IEDs. That way Treo was “free to achieve his best”. While some of the book is, unsurprisingly, anthropomorphic in tone it is interesting that the British soldiers and Taliban alike seemed to acknowledge the specific canine skills of Treo. The dog was feared (or respected) because of his own capacities and skills.
I believe the hardbook was reduced as there is now a paperback. I would highly recommend this as a good read for dog lovers and open-minded Animal Studies scholars alike.(Spoiler alert:neither Treo nor Dave die in Afghanistan.)