"I can't take one more step," a young boy said to his mother at the gate to Williamtown RAAF base.
Having just left his dad's shoulders, he wasn't tired from walking and an afternoon nap seemed hours away. Instead, he was standing just inches from a large German Shepherd who was about to bite a man in a thickly-padded suit.
From the boy's perspective, danger was imminent.
But he needn't have worried. The dog in front of him was a military working dog and one of the best-trained in Australia.
Visitors to the Williamtown RAAF base were treated to a showing of what the dogs are trained for on Sunday morning. Amongst the most startling demonstrations was bite training, where the dogs sprinted at someone in a thick, teeth-proof suit and latched on.
Some dogs stayed connected to the arm of the suit for several minutes, being lifted and swung in the air as the person moved.
It sounds scary, though trainers agreed it was their favourite part of the job.
"As a handler, it's really rewarding to see what your dog can do, and it's rewarding to see the help that you can provide to other people's dogs," leading aircraftman Jordan Dodd told the Newcastle Herald earlier this month.
The dogs are trained for more than attacking. Sunday's crowd saw military dog Radar perform tactical recall - where he retreated from a mission in which the handler wasn't safe - with lightning precision.
"It's essential for the dogs to respond to the handler's command without hesitation," a RAAF announcer said at the demonstration. "Tactical recall training involves consistent reinforcement, clear commands and positive association."
On the field, don't only perform rescue and attack missions - they are crucial for crowd control and protecting the base.
"We use their senses like sense of smell, and hearing, to detect and deter people from entering the base or trying to tamper with defence assets and property," LAC Dodd said.
The squad operates inside the heavily protected Williamtown base and Sunday was one of the first times the public saw the dogs in action.
The Herald spoke with trainers earlier this month who said they form great attachments with the dogs.
LAC Dodd has been working with his dog Effi for about a year, and had one of the last German shepherds before that for about three years.
"I formed a real close attachment with him," LAC Dodd said.
He was able to take the shepherd home to live with him when he was retired.
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