What You Should Know About Active Duty Military Dogs
Military working dogs are an important part of our military branches. After selecting Military Working Dog Team Support Association Inc. (MWDTSA) as our Paw It Forward partner for 2015, we quickly learned just how amazing these dogs really are. From this partnership with MWDTSA, the dogIDs pack was given the opportunity to visit a military dog training location and see these hard-working pooches in action!
Visiting the Base
When we pulled up to the base we had no idea what to expect, but were quickly welcomed to the sound of barking.
What did the dogIDs crew think? "Excitement! These are working dogs to the extreme. I couldn't wait to see them doing what they do best," said James Whirlwind Soldier, Director of Business Operations at dogIDs.
At the start of our tour we learned that there were about a dozen working dogs at this base along with their handlers, trainer and kennel master. All of the dogs had a variety of skills and uses including bomb sniffing, drug sniffing and security. Shelby Cochran, the Director of Merchandising and Sales at dogIDs, said, "I enjoyed seeing their kennel and offices, because you could really tell by the way it was organized and decorated that every person on that team felt bonded with the dogs."
There were only two dog breed types at this location, the German Shepard and the Belgian Malinois. We learned that the Belgian Malinois are faster and spend less time making decisions, whereas the German Shepard are more deliberate in their work, but both excel in the work they train for at this location.
These working dogs began their training at Lackland in San Antonio and went through 120 days of intensive training. If a dog fails their training corse at Lackland they are sent to another training camp where, over time, they become police dogs. All branches of military dogs train together.
It's not only the dogs that require training. Their handlers start by becoming Military Police and then go through multiple steps to be paired with a dog. As a handler, you and your dog may help with a variety of missions for any branch of the military. You can be sent out to any base depending on what the need is. This means that over their military career, each handler can be paired with multiple dogs.
The average military dogs serves its country for 8-12years. Many pups retire due to health issues and at the end of a dog's military service they receive a ceremony where they then become adoptable dogs. From what we were told, many retired policemen or servicemen adopt retired military dogs as their family pet, since they have shared experiences.
Military Dogs In Action
We were then lucky enough to see a demonstration of a military dog at work. Seeing a dog lunge out and latch onto the "bad guy" was astounding! Even more astounding was the obedience of the dogs. As soon as their handler told them to let go and sit down, the dog immediately listened. "It was not like I expected, and it was amazing how in control of the situation both the dog and the handler were," said Whirlwind Soldier.
Cochran said, "I found it really interesting to learn that each dog is assigned to a handler and if that handler gets deployed, so does the dog. I guess I didn't realize that these partnerships were made for the career of the dog."
One thing that you could notice right away was the bond that each handler had with their dog. Although they are working dogs, it was wonderful to hear about the bonding time that each dog is able to receive with their handler to build that trust and connection. "Every single person on the team really seemed to have a passion for dogs and for the work they do. Most of them went into the military specifically to work with dogs," said Cochran.
After a few minutes of chatting, the dogIDs pack was offered the experience of being the "bad guy" in the training exercises. This was an experience we will never forget! Each pack member put on the bite suit and volunteered for 3 bites. You never realize how strong these dogs are until a part of your body is in their jaws.
At the end of the day, this was an experience of a lifetime. We were incredibly lucky to meet such a fantastic team of military dogs and handlers.
What would you like to learn about working dogs? Comment below with your suggestions!