Archive for dog teams

Bonds with K-9 co-workers hard to break

Posted in Marine dog teams, military working dog handlers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by wardogmarine

 

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Tuesday, January 6, 2009

kadena
All four paws have left the ground, but military working dog Rexo maintains his grip on Lance Cpl. Arnold Apel’s arm during aggression training at the Marine K-9 kennel on Kadena Air Base. Apel, 19, is a military working dog handler from Milmay, N.J.

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — When Cpl. Kate Stanford arrived on Okinawa five months ago, she was assigned to Meister, a 5-year-old military working dog.

She immediately began building a bond with him.

“He kind of looked like, ‘Who are you? Where is my daddy?’ ” Stanford, 21, from Hubbard, Ohio, recalled of their first meeting at the Marine Provost Marshal’s Office K-9 kennel on Kadena Air Base.

Fortunately, the German shepherd is carefree, and it’s been “easy to build rapport with him,” she said. It also helped that his last handler was still on Okinawa and talked with her about Meister’s personality and quirks — such as a penchant for nipping at his handler’s ankles.

But it’s not always so easy for dogs when they change handlers or their handler goes on leave. Some even sink into depression.

kadena2Rexo, a military working dog, lays quietly at Lance Cpl. Ariel Soto’s feet after a training session. Even when these military working dogs are at rest, people should not come up and try to pat them as the dogs could misinterpret this as an attack on their handlers, dog handlers advise.

All the new handler can do, Stanford said, is train and play with the dog. It’s time well spent because it creates trust in their own as well as their dog’s capabilities, she said.

That bonding time is especially important at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, where all airmen serve one-year, unaccompanied tours.

Because of the high turnover at the Spartan, remote location on Korea’s west coast, military dog handlers have to find new ways to bond with their charges in a shorter time, according to an American Forces Network news report.

In the AFN report, dog handler Staff Sgt. Charles Eubanks explained the process they use to build that bond.

“We’ll go through what we call the rapport week, where there’s no commands. You just go out and walk the dogs, play fetch with them, just kind of build that relationship and that bond between the dog and the handler,” he said.

From there, Eubanks said, handlers will work on basic obedience and patrol and detection before actually going to work.

The dog handlers say the key issue is trust.

The dogs are used primarily in explosives and narcotics detection but also undergo aggression training to learn to pursue and subdue suspects.

Handlers literally trust their lives on their dogs’ noses, particularly with explosive detection dogs, Stanford said.

“That leash is only six feet. If he decides to step on [a bomb], you’re in trouble,” she said.

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Cpl. Kate Stanford, 21, from Hubbard, Ohio, plays with Meister at the Marine K-9 kennel on Kadena Air Base Wednesday. Stanford has only been Meister’s handler for about five months, but already they have developed a pretty good bond, Stanford said.

It’s not easy working with new dogs. Each has its own personality, and what works with one dog might not work with another dog, she said.

But most military dogs have had multiple handlers and know what is happening when they get a new one, she added.

Just like a child, a dog will test a new handler to see what it can get away with, Stanford said.

Sometimes, dog and handler just don’t click. When that happens, the dog is reassigned.

“You don’t try to force the relationship on the dog,” Stanford said.

She was assigned a second dog, Darra, about two months ago, and it’s been a little harder to build that relationship, she said.

Darra had deployed to Iraq with her previous handler. That created a tight bond between Darra and that handler, which means Stanford will have to work harder with her.

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Lance Cpl. Chase Paustian, 24, from Aurora, Ill., takes a few moments to rub Waldo’s stomach after a training session at the Marine K-9 kennel. Paustian and Waldo recently returned from a seven-month deployment together to Anbar province, Iraq. Being there together only tightened their bond, Paustian said.

Lance Cpl. Chase Paustian, 24, from Aurora, Ill., knows about the closer ties developed during a deployment. He and his dog, Waldo, recently returned to Okinawa from seven months in Anbar province, Iraq.

Waldo, a Belgian Malinois, “is a great dog” to work with, he said.

“He’ll work until he just can’t move anymore. He’s always just a happy dog all the time,” Paustian said.

In Iraq, the two went everywhere together except the chow hall, Paustian said. The exchange, haircuts, watching movies in the lounge; Waldo even slept with him.

Waldo also gets jealous if Paustian talks to other dogs, staring out of his kennel as if his handler were cheating on him, Paustian said with a smile.

“It was hard to come back and not be together all the time,” he said.

He has tried to ease Waldo back into kennel life by spending as much time with him as possible during the day, he said.

But it will be “really hard” on both of them when Paustian is transferred to a new duty station.

“It’s going to be like your kid going to college,” he said. “It’s going to be tough.”

Stars and Stripes’ T.D. Flack contributed to this report.

k5Rexo, a military working dog, lays quietly at Lance Cpl. Ariel Soto’s feet after a training session. Even when these military working dogs are at rest, people should not come up and try to pat them as the dogs could misinterpret this as an attack on their handlers, dog handlers advise.

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‘Walter Reed’ for combat dogs opens at Texas base

Posted in Military Working Dogs, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2008 by wardogmarine

By MICHELLE ROBERTS – Oct 21, 2008

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A new $15 million veterinary hospital for four-legged military personnel opened Tuesday at Lackland Air Force Base, offering a long overdue facility that gives advanced medical treatment for combat-wounded dogs.


Dog handler James Stegmeyer works with Kamilka at the new Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. The new $15 million veterinary hospital, complete with operating rooms and intensive care, officially opened Tuesday, offering an advanced facility to treat military dogs that find bombs and aid patrols on the warfront. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Dogs working for all branches of the military and the Transportation Safety Administration are trained at the base to find explosive devices, drugs and land mines. Some 2,500 dogs are working with military units.

Like soldiers and Marines in combat, military dogs suffer from war wounds and routine health issues that need to be treated to ensure they can continue working.

Dogs injured in Iraq or Afghanistan get emergency medical treatment on the battlefield and are flown to Germany for care. If necessary, they’ll fly on to San Antonio for more advanced treatment — much like wounded human personnel.


Dog handler James Stegmeyer works with Kamilka at the new Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. The new $15 million veterinary hospital, complete with operating rooms and intensive care, officially opened Tuesday, offering an advanced facility to treat military dogs that find bombs and aid patrols on the warfront. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“We act as the Walter Reed of the veterinary world,” said Army Col. Bob Vogelsang, hospital director, referring to the Washington military medical center that treats troops returning severely wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The dogs can usually return to combat areas if they recover at the Military Working Dog Center, he said.

Before the center opened, veterinarians treated and rehabilitated dogs in a cramped building that opened in 1968, when the military trained dogs for work in Vietnam.

The hospital was already overloaded by Sept. 11, 2001, but since then, demand for military working dogs has jumped dramatically. They’re so short on dog breeds such as German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and Belgian Malinoises that Lackland officials have begun breeding puppies at the base.

Lackland is training 750 dogs, which is nearly double the number of dogs there before the Sept. 11 attacks, Vogelsang said.


Military guests take part in the grand opening ceremony for the new Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. The new $15 million veterinary hospital, complete with operating rooms and intensive care, officially opened Tuesday, offering an advanced facility to treat military dogs that find bombs and aid patrols on the warfront. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

To treat the trainees and injured working dogs, the new hospital has operating rooms, digital radiography, CT scanning equipment, an intensive care unit and rehab rooms with an underwater treadmill and exercise balls, among other features. A behavioral specialist has an office near the lobby.

“This investment made sense … and somehow, we were able to convince others,” said retired Col. Larry Carpenter, who first heard complaints about the poor facilities in 1994 and later helped to launch the project.

Training a military working dog takes about four months. With demand outstripping the number of dogs available, hospital and veterinary workers were trying to keep them healthy and working as long as possible, Vogelsang said.

Working dogs usually enter training at 1 1/2- to 3-years-old, and most can work until they’re about 10, he said.

Then, the military tries to adopt them out and “station them at Fort Living Room,” Vogelsang said.

Guests tour the new Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. The new $15 million veterinary hospital, complete with operating rooms and intensive care, officially opened Tuesday, offering an advanced facility to treat military dogs that find bombs and aid patrols on the warfront. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

K9 Heroes of 9/11 Tribute Videos-Part 2

Posted in Miscellaneous, Tribute Videos, various k9 videos, Various Teams with tags , , , , , , , on September 11, 2008 by wardogmarine

K9 Heroes of 9/11 Tribute Videos

Posted in Miscellaneous, Tribute Videos, various k9 videos, Various Teams with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2008 by wardogmarine

Today is the 9/11 anniversary. It is a day we honor those we lost and those that fought so bravely to save lives. It was one of those days we all remember where we were when we first heard about what was happening. I was in Marine Corps boot camp. I had just arrived to boot camp one month earlier. Little did I know what was about to happen and where that path was going to lead me. Several years later, one tour of duty with my dog completed, several friends KIA, and a whole new outlook and appreciation of life later I am proud to have served my country and honor those who lost their lives that day. 

9/11 changed our world. It also skyrocketed the demand for working dog teams. Never before has there been such a high demand for search and rescue dogs, detection dogs, etc. Even to this day dog teams continue to be on the frontlines all around the world and here at home protecting our freedom. These videos are dedicated to our canine heroes of 9/11. Thank you to all those who put these together. 

Soldier, dog more than a team

Posted in Army Dog teams, military working dog handlers, Military Working Dogs, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2008 by wardogmarine

Great article here from The Mercury about military working dogs, specifically those at Fort Riley, Kansas. 

Paula Nardella, Fort Riley PAO-Article found in The Mercury in Manhattan, Kansas

It took Staff Sgt. Rico a few minutes to pinpoint the location of the C-4 explosive. Once he did, he alerted his team members to the potential threat by taking a seat. He was rewarded with a red chew toy, which he promptly chomped down on and then scratched the tattooed serial number on his ear.

  Rico is a bomb dog, and is handled by Sgt. Aaron Hill from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 97th Military Police Battalion.

Training
  Training for Rico and Hill typically begins around 5 a.m. and consists of problems to solve. The problems are hidden explosives that the dogs have to find. Explosives, such as C-4, normally are used, but when lightning strikes Fort Riley, the handlers use a chlorate kit, which gives off the same kind of, smell as other explosives, just not as strong.
  The task of planting the explosives goes to Staff Sgt. Lawson Wooten, who is the detachment’s training manager.
  ”I always tell them, ‘I’m planting like I’m trying to blow you up,”’ Wooten said.
  Wind also plays a part in the training. If the wind is blowing toward the dog, it can smell explosives sometimes from miles away. If the wind is blowing the wrong direction, however, the dog may not smell the explosive at all.
  ”Dogs have 220 million olfactory sensors in the nose, as opposed to our maybe 20 million,” Hill said.
  Future military working dogs are either purchased at around 1 year of age, or are bred from the puppy program. The puppy program is where breeders breed the puppies, and begin small steps of training as the puppy grows, with items such as tug toys.
  Most canines are typically retired around 10 to 12 years old, when their noses begin to get less sensitive to odors, such as the smell of explosives. After retirement, many of the dogs are adopted out and become house pets.
  Not all dogs find explosives, however. Some dogs are used to find narcotics, and other dogs are what are known as specialized search dogs. A new designation of dog is the combat tracker. Combat trackers are trained to start from an explosion’s detonation point and trace the scent of the person who set the explosive.
  ”They do all this for the love of their handler and the joy of that toy,” Wooten said.

Deployment
  When soldiers deploy with their dogs, not only does that soldier have to take his combat gear, but also all of the dog’s equipment. Water bowls, food dishes, collars, leashes, play toys and reward toys are just some of the things soldiers must take for their dogs. Dog handlers are sent to Kuwait with a two-man team to help with the gear.
  ”I had 14 pieces of luggage,” Hill said.
  During the deployment, the dog and the handler sometimes live in the same room, which strengthens the bond between human and dog.
  According to Hill, cold packs like medics carry are an invaluable tool for a dog handler in a hot climate. He discovereed this during a mid-day mission in Iraq, when Rico began showing signs of heat stress. Hill opened two of the packs and put them against Rico’s body where his arteries were located. This helped Rico cool off and avoid a heat stroke.

Buddies
  Hill said Rico is his best friend, and proves it by doing anything he can to make sure Rico is happy and healthy.
  He also hates to see Rico have to be sedated, like he was when he underwent a medical exam at Kansas State University to remove several cysts. A handler never really knows if their dog is going to come out of sedation, Hill said. One preventive action Hill takes to keep Rico from another sedation is brushing the dog’s teeth, he said.
  ”I can’t be away from him for more than five days, at the most,” Hill said.
  Rico is an independent dog, Hill said, and he worries that if he is gone too long, Rico will forget about him.
  Wooten said that emotions ”go down leash,” meaning that many times, the way a handler is feeling will affect their dog, and vice versa.
  Hill said that this ”down leash” idea is how Rico knows when he doesn’t feel well. When Hill is sick, he said, Rico doesn’t pull him as hard — unless there is a rabbit involved.
  Rico also knows when his handler is cold, and will curl up with Hill to share his body heat with him.

Saying goodbye
  ”I cried like a baby when I dropped my first dog,” said Spc. Timothy Connelly, a dog handler with the 97th MP Bn.
  Since bomb dogs are considered equipment that belongs to Fort Riley, unless they are deployed as a team, the dogs remain at Fort Riley no matter where their handlers go.
  ”When we get orders to go someplace else, you say your last goodbyes to your pup and hop on a plane,” Wooten said.
  Goodbyes also happen when a working dog retires or is euthanized. Upon retiring, many former military dogs can be adopted out. When medical problems arise, depending on the severity of the problem, there may be no choice except to put the dog down.
  ”That’s, I think, the worst part, when you have to put a dog down, especially a hard-working one,” Wooten said.
  Hill agreed, and told the story of a dog he worked with who had to be euthanized.
  ”I took him in and I was loving on him. They gave him the first shot to calm him down and put him into a sleep, and then they gave him the other one. I’m laying on him, and I can feel his heart beating and he’s breathing and I’m rubbing him, playing with him and then she gave him that other shot, which euthanized him. His chest didn’t rise and fall, his heart quit beating, and they literally had to pull me off of that dog, cause I just bawled,” he said.
  Hill had the dog cremated, and Marco now stays at home with Hill in a mahogany box.
  Wooten remembered he had a dog for three months and then found out the dog was going blind.
  ”They had to calm me down, because I new what that meant,” he said.

Dog tales from down range
    ”We’ve done air assaults,” Hill said. When doing an air assault with a dog, the dog gets attached to the handler and they go down the rope together. According to Hill, the problem is that since dogs don’t have opposable thumbs and can’t slide down the rope themselves, they have to be pushed out of the plane or helicopter and then followed by their handler.
  ”I was lucky I didn’t fall off the rope and die,” said Hill, laughing as he remembered Rico thrashing below him.
  Wooten remembered when Hill and Rico first redeployed to Fort Riley in December after serving in Iraq. On the return trip to the United States, Rico’s crate got broken due to cold weather. Since Wooten didn’t know about the broken crate, he brought a vehicle that did not have a built-in cage, and had to ride to the kennels by himself with Rico who sat in the back of the Explorer.
  ”I remember thinking, ‘Rico is going to eat me,” Wooten said.

Dog Teams a Common Use in Joint Missions

Posted in air force teams, Navy dog teams, Working Dog News with tags , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2008 by wardogmarine

Some joint missions are for the dogs

by Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan
407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs 

7/22/2008 – ALI BASE, Iraq (AFPN) — The dog days of summer are here, but the dogs — and their handlers — are taking it in stride. Together, military working dog handlers of every branch of service stand alongside their K-9 companions to make sure no insurgent can disrupt the mission. 

Staff Sgt. Sean Neisen searches vehicles with his dog, Goro E114, July 8 at the Vehicle Control Center at Ali Base, Iraq. Dog handlers are responsible for ensuring the safety and security of all coalition forces assigned here by searching vehicles that drive onto Contingency Operations Base Adder and Ali Base daily. Sergeant Neisen is a military working dog handler deployed to the 407th Provost Marshal Office from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson)

“I’m not about to (let) a vehicle get on this base and (have) something happen,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Neisen, a military working dog handler with the 407th Provost Marshal Office, who is deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. 

Sergeant Neisen and his 8-year-old military working dog, Goro E114, work in cooperation with two Navy dog handlers to search vehicles that drive onto Contingency Operations Base Adder and Ali Base every day. 

Their specialty is detecting explosives. 

“If you can build a bomb with it, our dogs can find it,” said Tech. Sgt. Terry Gilbert, a dog handler here who’s finishing his deployment and will soon return to Kadena Air Base, Japan. 

Under sweltering heat that can reach almost of 130 degrees, the Airmen, Sailors and their K-9s can be found searching the vehicles. Working side-by-side is natural for Air Force and Navy dog handlers, who train in the same K-9 school, Sergeant Gilbert said.


Staff Sgt. Sean Neisen searches vehicles with his dog, Goro E114, July 8 at the Vehicle Control Center at Ali Base, Iraq. Dog handlers are responsible for ensuring the safety and security of all coalition forces assigned here by searching vehicles that drive onto Contingency Operations Base Adder and Ali Base daily. Sergeant Neisen is a military working dog handler deployed to the 407th Provost Marshal Office from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson) 

“We learn the same stuff, so all our jobs are pretty much the same, especially in Iraq,” he said. 

The military working dog community is by nature combined, Sergeant Gilbert said. The kennels at his home station are a joint operation, with the Air Force and the Marine Corps each operating half of the kennels. Whether at home or in a deployed environment, the Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines put their joint training and culture to use every day. 

“It’s a wonderful experience, teaming up and working with the other branches,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ivan Winder, the kennel master. “It’s an equal match.” 

Each of the services varies slightly in terms of its expertise, said Petty Officer Winder, who is deployed from Commander Navy Region Southwest in San Diego. 

“The Army is great at pounding the ground, while the Air Force is great with force protection such as flightlines,” he said. “The Navy’s specialty is buildings, open areas and vehicles. Each (service) learns something from the others, and all entities working together creates a stronger, more cohesive unit.” 

The Air Force and Navy dog handling team here isn’t the only joint team in Iraq. Air Force and Navy dog handlers across Iraq work along side Army units searching for weapons and high-value targets. 

“The Army doesn’t have enough people or dogs to take care of their mission, so they need us,” Sergeant Gilbert said. “The K-9 community is already short-manned, but the Army is extremely short” because of mission requirements. 

The manning may lead to long days and nights, demonstrating that some joint missions are just for the dogs. 

Staff Sgt. Sean Neisen runs an obstacle course on base with his dog, Goro E114, July 7 at Ali Base, Iraq. Dog handlers keep their partners in shape to ensure they are ready for vehicle searches that drive onto Contingency Operations Base Adder and Ali Base daily. Sergeant Neisen is a military working dog handler assigned to the 407th Provost Marshals Office from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson) 

This article was found here:http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123107130

Will Detection Dogs Become Obsolete?

Posted in Working Dog News with tags , , , , , on August 1, 2008 by wardogmarine

Came across this article on cnn.com. They say that engineers are developing a machine that can detect odors as well as a dog can. I have heard of this before and from what I understand people have been trying for years to create an artificial smelling device. I’ll never forget when I was at Camp Pendleton and a company came by to test their new machine that they said could be more effective than our detection dogs. After the test it was concluded that our dogs were about 90% more efficient being 10 times faster and far more accurate. 

I feel if a machine were invented that could rival the scent capabilities of a dog they would be used to assist but not replace the dogs themselves. They can be used to confirm the dog has detected an odor, or be used after the dog has tired. I certainly do not think that it would become a more favorable choice over the dogs. Dogs can get tired but machines need maintenance and need to be taken care of as well or they can break down also.

I can’t blame people for trying, and I actually do hope they come out with an invention that can be as efficient and accurate as our beloved canines. They would be another tool in the toolbox. In the end, our dog’s senses were created naturally and no matter what is invented by human intelligence, mother nature’s inventions will prevail over them all.