5 Things You May Not Know About Military Dogscolby
All of us here at Unleashed Life want to share our sincerest gratitude to those who have had a part in preserving our freedom and protecting our nation, past and present. The sacrifices brave men and women have made and continue to make will never be forgotten. The topic of Veteran’s Day also brings up the dogs who have served our country in the military. We’d like to share some facts about these special canines today.
1. Dogs have been in the military during every major US conflict, but not officially recognized until WWII.
Sergeant Stubby of the 102nd Infantry, Yankee Division went from mascot to hero during WWI after being smuggled into battle by Private J. Robert Conway. Stubby went on to detect enemy gas, bark out warnings when rival troops were near and locate the wounded on the battlefield. By the start of WWII, the military had recognized the value canine soldiers could bring and began using them primarily for recon. Stubby forged the way for all canine soldiers who followed and remains a symbol of military bravery and heroism to this day.
2. They are trained in bomb, weapon and drug detection, tracking, and to attack the enemy.
Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX has been training sentry dogs since 1958. Today, more than 1,000 dogs are trained at any given time by a staff of 125 from all branches of military service. The complex training techniques are designed to utilize the dogs’ natural gifts for focus and aggression to their advantage. German Shepherds and Labradors can detect weapons, bombs, gases and drugs more accurately than any available military equipment.
3. They are extremely valuable, and not just for their service.
A fully trained bomb detection dog is likely worth over $150,000. But really, these animals are priceless. With an average of 98% accuracy in their detection skills, the peace of mind they provide to the troops is immeasurable.
4. They can get PTSD.
Just like their human brothers and sisters in arms, pup soldiers are susceptible to the horrors of PTSD. War dogs experience severe emotional trauma during deployment, and for some it becomes too much. Gunner, a Marine bomb sniffing dog became so skittish and unpredictable during active duty that he was declared “surplus” by the military and released from service. Gunner was adopted by the family of Corporal Jason Dunham.
5. Only about 50% make it through training.
They must be free of physical issues like hip dysplasia and be highly reward motivated. Trainers at Lackland use mostly toys like Kongs that can be hidden to represent bombs, but treats are also utilized. Suitable dogs for military service must also be able to attack on command. These strict guidelines mean over half of the dogs in training do not get sent to combat.