The Price of Being a Military Dog
Isn't it interesting that when the dogs are being trained to fulfill a societal role like military dogs they are no longer officially seen as living, breathing creatures with the need to be loved and part of a furever pack? Instead, as its pointed out, each dog is seen as "a piece of equipment." I understand the rationale. On the other hand, when a dog is trained by a human to attack other dogs or people (as in drug dealers protecting stashes) the dogs are bad. Under the system used in the military, that would be like the gun picking itself up and shooting people. Sort of unfair, don't you think?
Thanks to Stars and Stripes for this article.
Its hard making it in and out of militarys dog ranks
By Jimmy Norris, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, May 21, 2007
What does it take for a dog to bite, maul, sniff and search his way to glory? Big teeth and a sharp nose are just the beginning, officials say.
John Choi, general manager of Samsung Search and Rescues dog programs, said the selection process begins with puppies.
Theyre checked for possible hip and elbow conditions that could lead to health problems later in life. Theyre also checked for temperament shyness, obedience, aggressiveness; too much or too little of any of these traits can disqualify a dog from working as a detection or patrol dog.
U.S. military working dogs are selected on similar criteria, said Daegu Area kennel master Staff Sgt. John McLean. They also attend what McLean calls the equivalent of Army basic training at a course at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Officials said it can take between one-and-a-half to three years to prep a dog for work with civilians or the military.
Once its trained in the basics, it has to build a bond with its handler.
Military working dogs must rebuild this bond several times during a career as handlers move between duty stations.
Many handlers say that leaving dogs behind is often difficult for both the handler and the dog.
Its always hard to leave a dog," said one handler. The higher-ups say a dog is a piece of equipment. But dont tell a handler that."
According to McLean, a dogs best working years are when hes between 4 and 8 years old. At about 9 years old, the dog is considered for retirement.
McLean said the training military dogs receive often leaves them too aggressive to be used as pets after retirement. Instead many are euthanized.
Once a dog gets whats called a blood bite once it draws blood, that changes a dogs whole outlook on life," McLean said. It causes a reaction to make them a predatory animal."
He added that about 40 percent can be rehabilitated after a lengthy medical and behavioral clearing process.
But in most cases, McLean said, its best when trained dog handlers adopt the dogs instead of members of the general public.
Samsung also puts retired dogs up for adoption, as well as puppies deemed unfit to serve as working dogs. Choi said many of the dogs are available to U.S. Forces Korea personnel and anyone interest can call him at 82-31-320-8932 or e-mail at email@example.com.
Jimmy NorrisSouth Korean Air Force Sgt. Lee Byung-chae and Tea-su, his German shepherd, didnt place in the top three in any of the events they competed in last week.
But they still earned a special award for consistently placing fourth or fifth, often losing by a very small margin.
Event coordinator Master Sgt. Andrew Baxter said the teams performance was impressive given that none of the South Korean military working dog teams had more than six months of experience with their dogs and they were competing against teams with several years of experience.
Barco a 7-year-old German shepherd had a rough beginning to his career as a military working dog.
Barco refused to work with anyone" for almost two years after leaving basic training for dogs" at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, said Daegu Area kennel master Staff Sgt. John McLean.
Officials were getting ready to take Barco out of the program when Sgt. Joshua Brown arrived at the unit.
Brown came in and said nobody had taken the time to build a rapport with the dog," McLean said. Within two months hed certified with what everyone said was an unworkable dog. He was competing within six months."
Barcos now gainfully employed as a working dog at Camp Carroll.