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    IDF Canine Unit hounding for new 'recruits'
    Oketz Unit will be indispensable in case of new conflict with Hezbollah, military says

    Israel's defense establishment is closely monitoring the situation on the northern border, as concerns grow over the possibility that Hezbollah may get hold of Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical weapons arsenal; considered the largest in the world.


    But the GOC Northern Command and the Home Front Command are not the only ones gearing for all scenarios: The IDF's Oketz Canine Unit has been placed on high alert as well, over the IDF's concerns that should another violent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah ensue, the military's reconnaissance and rescue dogs would be indispensable.


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    Oketz, Ynet learned Wednesday, is therefore hounding for new "recruits."


    Oketz' service dogs are often used in disaster situations, such as in looking for survivors in cases involving collapsed buildings; as well as in the location of explosives.


    Indispensable. Oketz (Photo: IDF)


    Ynet learned that the unit has recently added dozens of new rescue dogs to its ranks, in one of the biggest growth-spurts since its inception.


    Much like the IDF's elite soldiers, the new recruits undergo a six-months training program. According to an Oketz officer, the unit added dogs of all sizes to its ranks, as smaller dogs can naturally get into, and through, small spaces in search of survivors.


    Some of the dogs were purchased from the Netherlands and Germany, as their breeds are unavailable in Israel.


    Among others, the latest round of service dogs includes Jack Russell, Yak and Fox terriers.


    According to military sources, acquisitions with such bite are subject to a rigorous selection process.


    The military spends tens of thousands of dollars on each specialty canine, including purchase, transport, training and care; making Oketz one of the IDF's most high-maintenance units in the Israeli military.



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    A breed apart. Oketz dog
    Photo courtesy of the IDF