|Dogs have been man's companions from the earliest times. Cave pictographs show dogs hunting with Stone Ageman. The Greeks and Romans probably were the first users of dogs in warfare. They sent formations of attack dogs, complete with spiked armor, to harass and cause general disturbance throughout enemy lines.
The invention of gunpowder and resulting changes in military tactics lessened the value of dogs in combat, but increased their usefulness in other military activities. Napoleon capitalized on the superior senses of dogs in 1798 by chaining them to the walls of Alexandria, Egypt, to warn of impending attack and to help delay the attackers.
During World War I, the German and French armies used an estimated 50,000 trained dogs as sentries, scouts, ammunition carriers, messengers, and casualty dogs. The British and Belgians loaned similarly trained dogs to the American Expeditionary Forces late in the war.
In the early 1930s, Germany opened a large dog training school in Frankfurt. By the time the United States entered World War II, the Germans had trained nearly 200,000 war dogs.
The attack on Pearl Harbor sparked the first serious interest in war dogs by the U.S. military services. In May 1942, the U.S. Army received the first nine American-trained sentry dogs from Dogs for Defense Inc., an organization composed of American civilians interested in training dogs for the war effort. From these nine dogs, the U.S. Army Canine (K-9) Corps was formed. It grew to a force of more than 10,000 dogs before the close of the war.
Following World War II, the Air Force began using sentry dogs in both Europe and the Pacific area for peacetime duty. The first Air Force sentry dog school was activated at Showa Air Station, Japan, in 1952. In 1953, the second school was opened at Wiesbaden, West Germany. The Army continued to train and supply sentry dogs to Air Force units in the United States until the Sentry Dog Training Branch of the Department of Security Police Training was established at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in October 1958.
The executive agency for the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program is the United States Air Force. Today the 341st Training Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, has the mission of operating this program for the Air Force.
The mission of the 341 TRS is to provide trained Military Working Dogs, handlers and trainers and kennel masters for the Department of Defense, other government agencies and allies through training, logistical support, veterinary support, a breeding program and research and development for security efforts worldwid
|The 341st Training Squadron is responsible for procuring all dogs for the MWD program and for shipping them to military installations worldwide following training. More than 110 Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force personnel conduct training courses for dogs and handlers for all branches of the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. Civilian police officers are trained as explosive detector dog handlers for the Department of Transportation. These highly specialized teams support the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at more than 80 major airports throughout the country.
The MWD training environment consists of 90 training areas and laboratories, encompassing 400 acres, 1,000 kennel runs and an average population of about 800 dogs located at Lackland AFB and the Lackland Training Annex.
Breeds of Dogs Used
Through the years, a number of different breeds have been tested for the MWD program. Currently, the German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois have proven to be the best choices as the standard MWD for patrol and detection work. However, other breeds such as the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and other sporting breed dogs have been used in support of the Transportation Security Administration mission and one of the DoD's newer canine capabilities, the Specialized Search Dog. The German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois have the best overall combination of keen sense of smell, endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence and adaptability to almost any climatic condition.
A dog's world is significantly different from man's. A dog's vision is inferior to man's although it can detect movement, however slight, at greater distances. A dog depends less on visual impressions than on its superior senses of hearing and smell. A German Shepherd's and Belgian Malinois' hearing ability is much better than man's, though their keenest sense is that of smell. Both the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois rely mostly on their sense of smell for close examination of the environment. The highly developed senses of hearing and smell, along with a generally superior personality and disposition, make German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois the most versatile working dog breeds, and the ones best suited for military duties.
The Basic Military Working Dog
Prior to the conflict in Vietnam, nearly all dogs used by the U.S. Armed Forces were trained as sentry dogs. Their function was to detect and attack, on command, all people except the handler and others who helped care for them. Sentry dog training is fairly simple as the dogs are taught basic obedience and almost total distrust for humans. Natural aggressiveness is greatly stimulated. Once trained, a dog's greatest reward is to be allowed to bite. The average German Shepherd's bite exerts between 400 and 700 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Complete distrust for everyone except the handler severely limited the number of ways sentry dogs could be used. They could not, for example, be used as part of a combat team such as a combat patrol, quick reaction team, or a maneuver force because of their intolerance of other team members. Also, if a sentry dog's handler became wounded, the dog would not let anyone close enough to assist. When a transfer of handlers was necessary, it took several weeks for a new handler to gain the dog's trust. Clearly, a dog trained to be more tolerant was needed. Civilian police dog training provided the answer.
In 1966, four sentry dog teams from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., were given patrol dog training by the Washington, D. C., Metropolitan Police Department. The additional advantages and capabilities of more tolerant and controllable dogs were quickly proven, and the patrol dog training program expanded. By 1969, the Air Force adopted the patrol dog as the standard military working dog.
Outwardly, there is little distinction between sentry and patrol dogs. However, there is a big difference in the way the dogs react to their environment and in the ways they are trained. Training objectives for patrol dogs aim for a composed, discriminating, controllable animal for detecting intruders and subsequent aggressive attack when commanded by their handlers.
Patrol dogs are trained not to be disturbed by the approach of people and to discriminate between a threat and acceptance of others by the handler. They are trained to remain alert, not to become excited by strangers, and to willingly enter vehicles with other people and dogs without becoming hostile.
The patrol dog is trained to be obedient both on and off of the leash. The dog will enter an empty building to search for hidden intruders or cover an area to find a lost or concealed object. The patrol dog is trained to attack at the command of its handler with the aggressiveness of a sentry dog, but unlike the sentry dog, can be called off the attack at any time.
Dogs are acquired from both domestic and international vendors. Male and female dogs are accepted. Dogs must be between 12 and 36 months old, at least 22 inches high at the shoulders, and their weight must be proportional to the dog's frame and skeletal size.
Prior to procurement, prospective military working dogs undergo extensive temperament and physical evaluations. They are tested for gun shyness, aggressiveness, and searching behavior. Their physical examination includes a blood test for heartworm disease, radiographs of their hips and elbows and a thorough physical examination from head to tail. Only if the animal is found to be both temperamentally and physically sound will it be procured for the program.
Military working dog training begins by establishing the handler-dog relationship through constant close association, feeding, grooming, exercise, and play. This simulates and develops the dog's natural instinct for companionship. Once this relationship has begun to develop, basic obedience training is introduced.
Obedience training for military working dogs is not significantly different from that conducted by professional civilian trainers for personal pets, except that it never stops. The same key factors of patience, firmness, repetition, and reward and correction are applied throughout the training process. Of these factors, patience is the most important. The handler must never lose his patience and become irritated, or the dog becomes confused and hard to handle.
Tech. Sgt. John M and his military working dog, Ajax, left, await a helicopter pickup with Staff Sgt. Manny G and his dog, Jimmy, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006. The dogs are wearing "doggles" to prevent sand and debris from getting in their eyes during sandstorms or when near helicopters. The Airmen and their dogs had completed a security sweep of a farmhouse looking for weapons and materials used to make improvised explosive devices. (U.S. Army photo/Pfc. William Servinski II)
A dog does not understand the difference between right and wrong according to human standards. Desired response is communicated to the dog through reward. When the dog responds correctly, it is rewarded with verbal praise, physical petting or, with food or play articles. If a wrong response is made, the reward is withheld or, in very rare instances, correction is applied. For most dogs, a firm "no" and a jerk on the leash are sufficient corrections. Repeated jerks on the collar are seldom needed. This is the only form of correction generally applied to military working dogs. Inflicting pain on a dog is detrimental to training and not allowed.
From the initial phases of training, the dog is taught not to ignore a command or fail to carry it out completely. If a dog fails to execute a command properly, praise is withheld and the dog is placed in the desired position and then praise is given. The dog is never allowed to suspect that there is any correct response except total obedience.
After basic obedience training, a dog enters advance training, which includes controlled aggressiveness, attack, and building and open area searches. During this phase a dog is taught to find a suspect or hostile person in a building or open area; to attack, without command, someone who is attacking its handler; to cease an attack upon command at any point after an attack command has been given, and other tasks. Because these tasks require absolute control over the dog at all times, proficiency training must continue from this point throughout the dog's service life. Dropping proficiency training on any one of these tasks for as little as 30 days significantly decreases the dog's capabilities and can result in having to retrain the dog.
Explosive detector dogs are used to support combat operations, to protect installations and personnel and to support special mission both stateside and overseas. To combat the growing use of marijuana and other drugs in Southeast Asia, a drug detection course was added in January 1971 to the MWD program. Qualified patrol dogs demonstrating exceptional curiosity, eagerness and ability to retrieve were selected as the dogs most likely to succeed in the program. The first dogs trained for marijuana detection were tested under a variety of field conditions and proved highly successful. The dogs were capable of detecting samples sealed in plastic bags and glass jars; packaged with other substances intended to mask the marijuana scent.
Based on the programs merit and success, the marijuana detector dog program expanded introducing cocaine, hashish and heroin to the program to expand the dog's capabilities. This also proved successful and today the Department of Defense has more than 500 drug detector dogs in service at various bases around the world.
Also in 1971, the Air Force began training dogs to detect explosives. The British, who trained "bomb dogs" for use in Northern Ireland, first attained success in this field. In special tests, explosives detector dogs were able to detect odor concentrations as small as one to two parts per billion; in several tests, the dogs detected concentrations too small to measure with current equipment. To ensure that detector dogs retain the highest possible level of capability, constant proficiency training is required.
In 2005, a new type of detector dog was introduced into the DoD inventory in response the rising threat of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Aptly referred to as Specialized Search Dogs (or SSDs), these highly skilled counter-terrorist search assets are trained to detect arms, ammunition, and explosives - both of the conventional and home-made varieties. They differ from their standard Explosive Detector Dog (EDD) counterparts in the fact that they are far more independent and work primarily off-leash via voice and directional commands issued by the handler. Since their initial fielding, these critical assets have been involved in nearly every major combat mission conducted across both theaters and have resulted in the detection, confiscation and destruction of literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of weapons, ordnance, explosives, and ammunition.
In early 2010, the 341st TRS began assisting the Marine Corps in training Combat Tracker Dog Teams to recognize and follow a human quarry. This is the first program of its kind since the end of the Vietnam War. Each class at Lackland AFB teaches both the Marine and his canine counterpart the basics of tracking and behavior recognition. The teams are then sent to Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, where the skills and noses of the teams are honed into combat ready assets. Upon deployment, Combat Trackers assist Unit Commanders by tracking enemy insurgents, IED makers, and snipers. This force multiplier offers the abilities to both stop current attacks and prevent future ones.
The Veterinary Flight supporting the Department of Defense Military Working Dog program provides complete veterinary care for more than 800 dogs kenneled at Lackland AFB and the Lackland Training Annex. This unique Working Dog Hospital provides primary care and specialty level care as well as worldwide referral and consultative services for all dogs in the MWD program and those of other federal agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Border Patrol and others. The Veterinary Flight's professional staff consists of eight U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Officers with advanced training in surgery, radiology, internal medicine, epidemiology, and pathology. Another civilian staff member is a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior. Two civilian Animal Health Technicians and 10 U.S. Army enlisted Animal Care Specialists complete this highly skilled staff. Wilford Hall Medical Center's Endodontic Dental Residency program supports the flight by training the veterinary staff in endodontic techniques and assisting with particularly difficult working dog endodontic cases. Wilford Hall also provides the veterinary staff with access to advanced diagnostic imagining equipment (MRI) in keeping with the ever-increasing sophistication of working dog medicine. The Veterinary Flight supports overseas dog buying trips by completing thorough medical evaluations on each prospective canine candidate.
US Navy and Marine military working dog handlers give their partners a break after an 8 half hour flight on a C17 Globemaster III aircraft May 11 2006 U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John E. Lasky
Most military working dogs serve long, useful careers. If they are no longer needed by one installation, they are moved to another. There is no limit to the number of times a dog can change handlers. Those that are unable to perform full military duties are returned to Lackland AFB and used in training or as demonstration dogs. In this way, most dogs serve the Department of Defense for at least 10 to 12 years.
The Robby Law, enacted in 2000 permits MWDs to be adopted following completion of their careers on "active duty." MWDs are in reality canine athletes who must be in peak physical condition to perform their duties as patrol detection dogs. But canine athletes, much like people, experience a decline in their capabilities with advancing age. Now all dogs nearing the end of their military careers are carefully screened for their potential to be adopted as pets or transferred to other government law enforcement agencies.
To be eligible for adoption or transfer a dog must first be declared excess to the needs of the Department of Defense. The adoption screening process consists of a thorough medical examination and an assessment of the dog's temperament. In some dogs a rapid decline in health precludes adoption (such as an MWD with cancer). Others retain the aggressive nature that made them such effective patrol dogs, but unfortunately renders them ineligible for a safe return to civilian life. A key consideration is that the former working dog when faced with unique circumstances of civilian life (such as good-natured wrestling match between the new owner and a friend), does not respond as a threat to people or other animals. Potential owners are also screened by the MWD unit commander for their capability to handle and care for a former MWD. In particular, new owners must be aware of the circumstances and commands that might call to action a lifetime of military training in a former MWD.
Dogs that are still capable of limited duty can continue to contribute to the nation's safety and welfare by being transferred to other government law enforcement agencies. In this way, local police forces have an opportunity to augment their capabilities and they are the first option for placing dogs declared excess to DoD needs. Former MWD handlers are the second choice as a new owner. The third option includes others who are capable of humanely and safely caring for these unique dogs.
Current as of October 2010 Article provided by US Military, link to this page information is no longer active
Military Working Dogs Save Many Lives From locating improvised explosive devices to identifying weapons caches, these trained dogs assist troops with Operation Enduring Freedom
“People don’t realize how many lives MWDs save,” said Chief Master at Arms Ricky N. “There are several instances in which MWDs have located explosive-laden vehicles or improvised explosive devices (IED) designed to kill or injure U.S. forces, as well as locating numerous weapons caches of small arms and ordnance used by insurgents and terrorists.”
Master at Arms 1st Class Jason C, accompanied by MWD Dino, was the first Naval Station Rota dog handler to go to Iraq. “The dog becomes your best friend, because it is with you 24/7,” said C. “The dog loves unconditionally, and that is a great feeling.”