Training War Dogs
Military training is much more intense and specific than dog training in civilian life. While civilian training is focused on obedience and a few simple commands to make living with the dog easier, the military has to help the dog fulfill specific roles and responsibilities as part of a man-dog team.
Staff Sgt. Amy Nordstrom, 379th Expeditionary Security Forces, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar with MWD Aron. Training while wearing donated Doogles and paw mitts, 2004.
Training of K-9 Units in World War II
During World War II, the Quartermaster Corps trained dogs and dog handlers, most of whom were Quartermaster soldiers. These soldiers were responsible for developing all doctrine for training and use of War Dogs, incorporated into technical manual TM 10-396, War Dogs, 1 July 1943.
Training for a dog was 8 to 12 weeks. It began with a "basic training" period during which dogs were trained to carry out commands such as sit, stay and come and to wear a muzzle. Like soldiers in basic, they were also acclimated to gas masks, riding in military vehicles, and gunfire. After completion of basic training, each dog went through one of four specialized training programs for specific military working dog roles: sentry, scout/patrol, messenger, or mine.
Starting in early 1944, the emphasis shifted to supplying dogs for combat to support offensive operations in the Pacific and European Theaters. Dogs trained by the Quartermaster Corps established outstanding records in overseas combat. This record of accomplishment continued through the Korean War, Vietnam, and to the present time.
Training of MWDs Today
The Lackland Training Detachment (LTD), 701st MP Battalion, is located at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. Its mission is Joint Service assistance in the training of all military working-dog (MWD) handlers, MWDs, and traffic-accident investigators deployed worldwide. The base is the only facility in the U.S. that trains dogs for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Canines are dual certified in explosive detection (EDDs) and patrol, which means they will attack on command, or, to protect themselves or their handler.
EDDs are trained and certified to detect, at or above 95 percent accuracy rate, on nine different explosive odors in many different areas such as offices, barracks, theaters, warehouses, luggage, and vehicles. After the MWD is trained in explosive detection, it is then trained in patrol. Patrol training consists of obedience, an obedience course, out and guard, building search, and scouting.
Though it has been in use elsewhere, out and guard is a new technique of training at Lackland AFB. It incorporates false run, false run into a bite, search and reattack, escort, and stand off. For years, MWDs were trained to attack a suspect and return to the handler on command. Now, they train to attack and stay in front of the suspect and watch the person until the handler has detained the suspect.
In a combat-support role, in an urban combat situation, an MWD team can clear an unsecured building better and faster than an MP team. Only the amount and type of training the MWD has received will limit its use.
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