A Belgian Malinois dog named Fox has started working as a lifeguard at Antalya’s Konyaalti Beach this week, becoming Turkey’s first canine lifeguard.
In addition to human lifeguards, a 17-month old Belgian Malinois dog called Fox started work as a canine lifeguard in Antalya, in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast.
Antalya’s Konyaalti beach now has a canine lifeguard at station seven, along with his trainer. Fox will be utilised in quick intervention in drowning cases.
Fox has been with his trainer since he was 2.5 months old. Ahmet Godeler is a lifeguard trainer certified by the Turkish Underwater Sports Federation (TSSF) as well as a canine trainer certified by International Canine Breeds and Cynology Federation (UKIFED).
Godeler says that Fox began lifeguard training when he was six months old, and had undergone 11 months of training in total.
“Fox is working as Turkey’s first lifeguard dog. The canine is now working in response to flailing. As [the drowning person] flails, he swims out to him, and swims back with our citizen holding on to the life vest on him,” Godeler says.
“In the next stage, [Fox] will start swimming with his operator. Because some people with a fear of dogs need to be approached with both an operator and the dog,” Godeler adds.
Godeler points out that there were plenty of other canines working as lifeguards in other beaches around the world. Dogs, successful in many aspects of serving humans, from guide dogs to drug sniffers, could also be used as lifeguards. “That is why we decided we could utilise them as lifeguards,” Godeler says.
For example, there is the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs, “the largest national organisation dedicated to the training of dogs and their handlers for water rescue.” Not only do they train dogs over 30 kgs and their humans for rescue missions, they also “collaborate with the Italian heli-rescue teams (Air Rescue, Airforce, Police, Customs, Firemen and Civil Defence).”
The trainer says all of Fox’s expenses were taken care of by a sponsor firm.
Turkey Environmental Education Foundation (TURCEV) Antalya Blue Flag Coordinator Lokman Atasoy stresses due to blue flag criteria, life safety rules were exceptionally important.
Atasoy says in Antalya’s Konyaalti beach, there are 40 stations with 55 lifeguards. “Today we have a new addition to the team. Our charming friend Fox started his job as Turkey’s first lifeguard canine at Konyaalti beach.”
Atasoy adds: “Our lifeguard dog was raised through a long training process and we hope that he will both assist our team and be a charming addition [for the beachgoers].”
Atasoy points out that according to blue flag criteria, pets and stray animals are forbidden at sea or on the beach, with the exception of guide dogs for the visually impaired, horse patrols, and lifeguard animals.