Extreme Military Working Dog Training
Military working dog teams primarily train on their detection capabilities because their main purpose is to find explosives and munitions. However, because they may encounter many different situations down range, they do their best not to overlook any training that they feel would help the dog be better prepared.
Here are a few of the more unique trainings our dog teams may go through to make them more thoroughly prepared for any situation.
Gun Fire: Working in combat zones, a dog team has a high probability of experiencing some kind hostile and/or friendly gunfire. If a dog is not exposed to gunfire and is engaged in a firefight then the handler has no way of knowing how his dog may react. Some dogs treat it as just another noise while others may become uncontrollable or even aggressive. I heard of story while I was deployed about another military working dog attacking friendly troops who are standing next to them firing their weapon. This is extremely dangerous and can potentially put lives in danger. Dog teams familiarize their dogs with gunfire by taking them to many ranges on base where military personnel are practicing firing their weapons. This allows the handler to observe their dog and make corrections if necessary so that when the real gunfire happens they know how each other will react.
Gas Attack: One of my favorite trainings was bringing our dogs through the CS Gas chambers (2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile). This gas is considered a non-lethal weapon and is the most widely used gas. I got the effects it has on humans from wikipedia.com and it states
“the chemical reacts with moisture on the skin and in the eyes causing a burning sensation and the immediate forceful and uncontrollable shutting of the eyes. Reported effects can include tears streaming from the eyes, running nose full of mucus, burning in the nose and throat areas, disorientation, dizziness and restricted breathing. In highly concentrated doses it can also induce severe coughing and vomiting. Almost all of the immediate effects wear off in a matter of minutes.”
The gas has very little effect on the working dogs because of their under developed tear-ducts and protection by fur. We take them through the chambers so they become familiarized with it. The handlers, of course, are wearing gas masks although there is always one or two who think they can brave it and go in without one. We even have the dogs attack decoys in the chambers, not just so the dogs are used to it but the handlers have confidence in knowing their dog can and will perform if this type of scenario happened. If other gases are used then dog gas masks have to be used. Here is a great link about gas masks for dogs- Dog Gas Masks
Air Transportation: Insertion and extraction is often heard when figuring out how to transport Marines/Soldiers to and from an area. There are different ways to transport including vehicles, helicopters, boats, etc. Since dog teams are sometimes apart of these missions they need to be familiar with how they may be transported as well. The more a dog is comfortable riding around in a helicopter or a zodiac boat the less it will stress out and and be more efficient when on a mission. Here is a great article about dog teams training for flight- MWD Flight Training
Water Aggression: Suspects don’t always comply with your demands by stopping. They will do whatever it takes to get away even if it includes swimming or jumping in the water. If the military installation has a lake, a river, or even a beach the dog teams are sure to use them at some point. Dogs are excellent swimmers and even though it may be fun training, it builds a lot of confidence and rapport between the handler and their working dog.
While these are just a few scenarios dog teams will train for, handlers will get very creative in the kind of training their dog will receive. It is all used to better prepare them for real life scenarios in which they may be asked to save lives.
Air Force Staff Sgt. David Gum releases Meki, a military working dog, as the canine is hoisted up to the helicopter at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew T MacRoberts) (Released)