“Shepherds are used as work dogs because of their faithful and spirited nature, their urge to work and their will to succeed: to find and get hold of something. Customs uses them to detect items such as narcotics, tobacco and money. As domestic pets shepherds live for about thirteen years, but as work dogs they live two years less on average. Not many people know how hard they have to work – always outdoors, even in extremely hot or cold conditions. If it’s 30 degrees outside, the temperature in a container could easily be as high as 50 degrees. We’re available 24 hours a day and also work for the police and the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service. When they’re searching, the dogs breathe in and out about 300 times a minute in short breaths. Of course, the work takes a lot of effort. Fifteen minutes spent searching is the same for a dog as an hour running alongside a bike. For that reason I give Sasja regular short breaks during the work.”

“No two dogs are the same: they all respond differently if they find something. Some go mad at the first sign of something, whilst others are more restrained and just look you in the eye, for instance. That means that a handler has to get to know the dog well, and vice versa. A close relationship gradually comes about. That’s why we can’t swap our work dogs every now and then. Sasja has her own way of doing things, too: when she’s at work she gets so involved in her task that she forgets everything and everyone else around her. I have to watch out to make sure she doesn’t break anything.”

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