The following interview is with Lieutenant colonel D.Batbileg, who worked as an official dog trainer for many years. On top of training service dogs, he prepared many dog trainers.
Last month, 35 servicemen and two dogs from Mongolia went to Turkey, which was hit by a natural disaster, and participated in search and rescue operations. At that time, search dogs of the Search Dog Service of the National Emergency Management Agency Marta and Balu gained more attention and showed that the capabilities of our service dogs have reached the international level.
How did the young people of your generation choose their profession? I wonder why you became a service dog trainer. Did you choose this profession on your own?
I did not become a dog trainer by choice. I didn’t know such a job existed. Even if someone passed the military school exam, they could not even dream of joining the army if they did not know anyone in the military at that time. Although I passed political school, I was excluded because I was not a member of the political party. I passed the Military Command Institute exam successfully, but I failed because of my health. Therefore, I missed school and went to the military unit where I was serving. In the 1980s, the border situation was a bit complicated. At that time, there was a job as a dog trainer. I used to take part in the national running championship, so I was chosen as the dog trainer. That’s how I entered the service of a dog trainer. When I became a senior, I studied at the service dog training school in the Soviet Union.
You are a soldier. Not everyone can do this job. Is your profession a rare profession?
There was a dog training program of the Ministry of Defense, but it was discontinued in 1990. Since then, I have worked in many organizations, including the police, state security, border guards, and state special services. I was the last person trained as a service dog trainer in the Soviet Union. I’m just a continuation of generations of trainers. Many people studied, worked and laid the foundation before me but it is a rare profession. Even though there is no disaster in our country, we teach our dogs about it. That’s why the rescue operation in Turkey showed that our training reached the international level in the big picture. So far, dogs from four organizations have been certified as capable of working internationally. A dog is an animal that ensures the safety of high-ranking guests, works tirelessly for its country, owner and office, listens even when it is asleep, and protects continuously.
How many years have you worked as an official dog trainer? During this time, did you find it easier to work with people, or did you get along better with dogs?
I have connected my life with dogs for 40 years, from a junior officer to a lieutenant colonel. In the past, I have trained more than 2,000 dogs and 2,000 people. It’s a special profession that trains people on one side and dogs on the other side. To put it bluntly, working with dogs is easy but working with people is difficult. Dogs are not conscious animals, but they learn data commands very well. They are trained scientifically and practically for six months. By doing the same thing every day, they learn, so it takes a lot of hard work. Some people unfortunately don’t like to study, beat their dogs, don’t give them food and don’t love them.
Are there any special requirements to become a service dog trainer? Only a dog lover can do this job, right?
Some organizations require it. For me, I look at a person’s abilities and interests. Only a dedicated and dog-loving person can do this job. Dogs are very loyal animals. A dog will not follow a rich man even if it has a poor owner. Dogs never treat trainers and people who lie and don’t do their job with their heart well. The more the owner truly loves the dog, the more loyal the dog will be.
Have you ever felt discouraged working in multiple organizations? Do you seem to take a lot of pride in your work?
There are many times of discouragement. In the 1990s, wages were low, shop shelves were empty, and it was becoming difficult to support my family. Soldiers had uniforms but no money. Even so, I have been working with the belief that I love dogs and that only I can do it. Before 1990, it was easy for me to work because it was a centrally planned system. However, after 1990, the system disappeared, and our branches had their own rules and regulations. Now there are 10 organizations with service dogs in our country. Those organizations have separate branch laws. The law includes provisions on service dogs. In some organizations, dogs have become a necessity. For example, civil aviation, railways, customs, law enforcement, emergency organizations, and special government services must have dogs. During my 40 years of work, as mentioned above, I have trained more than 2,000 people and the same number of dogs, and I am happy and proud of myself for being able to include the five letters “dog” (Mongolian translation of the word “dog” is nokhoi and it has five letters) in the laws of 10 Mongolian organizations. I did not give the youth even five MNT for bread, but I am proud that I made a contribution that provided the legal status of their work to earn those five MNT and gave them the opportunity to work in their profession.
What kind of dogs are trained in the service? It is difficult to find a suitable dog for the service. Where do you choose the dogs from?
We train German shepherds. In the 18th century, with the development of industry in Germany, the smell of various chemicals appeared, and the German shepherds began to work there. Since then, the method of dog training has been improved, and now it has reached a newer level. This dog is better suited to harsh conditions like Mongolia, which has four seasons. Other dog breeds have poor skin. However, many years of work experience show that it is optimal to choose a dog that is domesticated in Mongolia, not imported from Germany. Even animals undergo evolutionary changes to adapt to our four seasons. For instance, we don’t let dogs wear clothes. That’s why completely hairless dogs have adapted to our climate, and become hairy.
Don’t you train Mongolian bankhar?
More than 50 types of lessons are taught to service dogs. They learn all the lessons and become a service dog. On the other hand, Mongolian bankhars only study more than 30 subjects. There are no chemicals or industrialization in our rural areas. Since there are few people who apply perfume, Mongolian bankhar’s ability to smell is weaker.
What is the best and most difficult part of your job?
I am the happiest when they find hidden things. The more you hide, the more the dog detects and finds. They have a natural search habit. But the most difficult thing is when they get old and can’t do their jobs, get sick and die. The toughest thing is to “retire” my good friend. We don’t care if our salary is low or if our boss scolds us. The hardest thing is to lose the dog I worked with everyday and trained.
After how many years does a service dog “retire”?
In our conditions, they “retire” after working for five to six years. Service dogs play a very important role in Mongolia’s national security. It means they are a living laboratory and a living instrument. They are also economical. They don’t get paid, they don’t ask for leave to visit their parents, they don’t wear clothes and they eat only food.
Does a dog trainer have any characteristics?
Dogs are very sensitive. It is a well-developed animal with a sixth sense. A person’s sixth sense is very well developed by working with dogs for a long time. A dog cannot tell that there is a person behind this wall or under the rubble. It is important to read the language and the feelings of a dog. “Here is a living person and there is a dead person,” a dog cannot say, but understanding him is a sixth sense. In addition, a person who works with a dog gets a lot of emotional relief. Nowadays, dogs speak human language.
Just talking about your dog makes your eyes light up and smile. Only a dog trainer can feel this emotion of yours?
Dogs are beautiful animals. They give their life for you, detect explosives, and follow us. The dog was even included in God’s book.
Are you a dog scientist and not just a trainer?
At first I trained dogs, and later I studied. I study the abilities of our service dogs, what level we are at, whether my training is right or wrong, and how other countries are training dogs. I study with immense interest about why people include their dogs in Mongolian oral literature. Mongolians cherish their children, the horses they ride, and the dogs who protect them. Dogs bark a lot at dog time, 7:40 p.m. to 9:40 p.m, which is a Mongolian traditional time. People don’t always notice it.
Looking back on your life years later, what has this job given you?
It gave me a lot of hope and kindness. I think it’s important to understand the nature of things. The development of our service dog is progressing step by step. During the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives of 10 organizations with dogs worked together to develop professional standards for official dog trainers for the first time in Mongolia. The standard is very important because it is a profession that is given only through informal education and not at universities. We will develop accompanying rules and regulations in accordance with the standards. Mongolian service dog professional council including representatives of 10 organizations was established. The professional council that connects the public and private sector has a lot of work to do in addition to training, promotion and awareness work, such as improving the skills of our service dogs, connecting our young trainers with other countries, and exchanging experiences. I plan to meet with an international expert and trainer from Germany to discuss issues related to dogs.