Although we all know that dogs make the best pets, some instead have very important jobs, often working to protect.
Shinga will soon be one of those dogs. Bred by Dogs 4 Wildlife, in South Wales, the Belgian Malinois is currently in training for deployment to Zimbabwe for a role protecting endangered rhinos.
Poaching is a big problem in some parts of Africa so eight-month-old Shinga will play a pivotal role in tackling this issue, acting as a deterrent to any would-be poachers.
She is due to join Murwi, another dog bred and trained by the organisation, at the Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservancy.
But before she can be put to work, she’s been working closely with dog trainer Darren Priddle, one of the founders of Dogs 4 Wildlife.
Her training started at eight weeks old with her due to travel to be deployed in early 2022.
The organisation breeds dogs for a number of purposes, including for police and military, but it was Shinga’s social personality that stood out to Darren and why she was selected as an anti-poaching dog.
Darren said: “She was nice and confident, very stable and balanced. She was very social and willing to work with humans.
“She had a high input for human interaction which is always good. That's what we want.
“She was robust and ticked all of the boxes that we had through our testing measures.”
Describing her personality, he added: “She’s cheeky, fun-loving, very social and interactive, but when it comes to her work she is very driven, she means business.”
Sponsored by ProDogRaw who is covering her training, equipment and shipping requirements, Shinga works with Darren with her training covering obedience, agility, environment conditioning and tracking.
Once Shinga has been deployed, her training will then continue with her handlers over in Zimbabwe.
The tracking is an important part of the programme as this is a skill that will be vital in detecting poachers.
“She will track human beings over large distances in the reserve she's going to,” said Darren.
“And we also teach her at a young age, obviously this is all foundational stages, when the dog is sent over to Africa we teach the dogs to apprehend as well so we're doing a little bit of poacher type slash criminal apprehension training as well.”
Once she gets to Africa, the handlers will advance the training to track over more difficult terrains.
On what awaits Shinga past her training, Darren said: “She’ll have a couple of roles. Daily, she will be tasked with being on patrol around the reserve perimeter fencing.
“She will also sometimes stick with the rhino and stick with the elephant to actually be with them when they're just roaming around Imire land.
“And then other times she will also be utilised as a quick reaction force so if they ever have an incident where a poacher is spotted or somebody has found a track, Shinga will then be deployed as a quick reaction force to that area and environment to try and locate that poacher or track that poacher.”
On why her role is so important, Darren added: “They provide such a game-changing element to these conservancy reserves with the capabilities of the dogs’ ability to track human scent.
“A lot of the rangers themselves are visual trackers so they can track human beings very well, but what they can't do is track quickly and they also cannot track at night.
“A lot of the poaching incidents that we're aware of happen during the evening or during the night.
“The rangers cannot track poachers at that time so that's where they utilise the dog and Imire have also lost a lot of their rhino in the few incidents previously.
“So basically, Shinga’s job, as with all of our dogs, is to protect all of the wildlife within the reserve by being a strong visual deterrent, as well as giving the capacity to the rangers to track over large distances at night, where they're not capable of doing without the dogs.”
And it’s not just the rhinos that Shinga will be there to protect, she’ll also act as a deterrent to bushmeat poachers, so looking out for the antelope species, giraffes and warthogs.
Darren added: “They will all be protected because of her presence because poachers won't want to come on to a reserve where there's a highly-trained specialised dog.”
To help support the vital work of Shinga, or one of her canine colleagues, Dogs 4 Wildlife are looking for adopters for their working animals.
As well as helping to support these dogs in much-needed areas, adopters receive a special gift pack including a soft toy, key ring, dog fact sheet, adoption certificate and updates on the progress of the dog.
Founder of ProDog Raw, Heidi Maskelyne, said: “I've been on safari multiple times, and on my last visit I noticed that they were training dogs to help protect rhinos and it was one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen.
“It just perfectly epitomised the whole 'dogs with jobs'/ 'pets with purpose' movement that I champion, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and sponsor an anti-poaching dog.
“ProDog Raw already sponsors agility events and working dog prizes, but that's for fun whereas proving how dogs can lead the fight against poaching is meaningful and really resonated with me."
To find out more about Shinga, including how to adopt or donate, visit https://www.dogs4wildlife.org/donate.html