Military Working Dogs

Written By: Jim russell

I love all the web pages online saluting the Military Working Dog and also the sad Memorials to all the fallen K9′s. I am proud of my time as a Military Working Dog handler and salute all the handlers past and present. You are a unique breed of soldier and i thank you for your service. I would love any MWD handlers to share their insight on current training techniques used in today’s military. Please feel free to post any info you wish to share on this blog.

I would like to make this page a dedication to a few of the dogs that i have worked with when i was a Military Working Dog handler. I had contact with many dogs and i think it would be interesting to look at the ones that made the biggest impact on my dog training past. I will try to list them in the order in which i met them. I will post the dogs name and then a little background on the dog.

FRIDAY- Friday was the first military dog i ever worked and was also my training dog when i entered the Military Working Dog Program at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Friday was a solid black Belgian Shepherd and he was out of control. He would bite the decoy, his own handler and anybody who was in the area when he was released to attack. Anyone brave enough to train with us had to wear a full body suit as you never knew where Friday was going to try to bite you.

This type of uncontrolled aggression meant Friday was never going to be allowed to graduate the Military Working Dog Program. Friday was washed out of the program and taught me that not every dog can become a Military Working dog.

KIMBA- This dog was the companion dog to my first dog Friday and we always trained side by side. Kimba was a solid white Shepherd and was a lovable friendly dog.

She was handled by my good friend Mike and i will forever remember Mike teaching the dog to sit up and beg and telling the instructor ” look Sgt Gammon a circus dog!” to which the instructor replied “Yes, and its clown handler.”

RANGER- When i was assigned to transport 15 dogs to the Philipines on my first assignment, i was introduced to Ranger. This dog had the reputation of my former dog Friday, meaning it was an uncontrolled biter. The one difference was Ranger could be controlled by one handler, Airman Dewey.

I was to transport the dog to Airman Dewey at Clark Air Base on the Phillipine Islands. I was informed Ranger would be trouble if i had to take him out of his transport cage and i created a leash rig that would allow me to remove him from the cage without getting bit.

The Lesson i learned was i did not need the leash set-up as after several hours caged up on a plane, the dog was more than happy to be allowed out for exercise. Ranger was never a problem on the trip, it was the handler that made him aggressive.

BEAR- My first dog in the Phillipines. He was one of the 15 dogs i transported there. A Shepherd mix, and a great first dog that reacted to commands instantly. I spent many nights with this dog hiding in the tall elephant grass waiting for an intruder to dare cross into my territory.

My very first night on post, Bear picked a poisonous frog up in his mouth and i had him drop it quickly. Minutes later the dog was vomiting and unsteady on its feet. I called “dog down” on the radio and my back-up team responded by jeep.

Bear recovered in a few minutes as he did not have long contact with the poison and we continued on our assigned duties. I kept a watchful eye on the dog for any bad reaction the next couple of days.

Lesson learned here was to always know what your dog is doing. I learned to watch my dog as he will alert to anyone in the area, that is how you work a military dog.

BRUNO- My good friend mike had a big lumbering dog named Bruno. I would train with them and decoy for the dog. At this phase of my career i was assistant trainer and was working with many dogs.

Mike and i decided to go against the rules and he was going to send the dog to attack me and i was not going to be wearing any protective equipment. This was to see if the dog would attack a decoy when the dog has only real flesh to bite and does not see an arm protector to sink its teeth into.

It was a stupid idea as i could have been seriously bitten, yet i had made the decision based on Mike having great verbal control of the dog and he could call it off instantly if i was bitten and also i was sure i could survive for a few seconds if the dog latched onto me. I was such a young stupid daredevil back then.

We did a few attacks with the padded arm sleeve on my arm and then i took it off and Mike sent Bruno to get me. The dog came running like a freight train and plowed into me. The dog kept jumping up and slamming its body into mine, yet never applied a bite. Mike called back the animal and was upset that Bruno did not bite, I was not so upset.

I concluded that several factors were in place that could have been the cause of the results we experienced:

* The dog knew it was a training session and was looking for a padded arm and when he did not see the equipment he did not know what we wanted.

* The dog knew me very well as we worked together many times and was not sure i was any threat at that time.

* The training session was light as Mike and I were friends and the dog did not feel the high emotional stress that is present in a real attack situation.

All the above factors were in play and could greatly effect the training session. It was experiments like this that molded my future methods of dog training.

SATAN- This was the only Doberman Pinscher i worked with in the Military and it was a treat to work with such a sleek and high energy animal.

Satan was a Top Dog. This meant he had competed in a worldwide competition where each military base sends there best dogs to compete in the Superbowl of Military Dog Training. One dog comes out the winner and Satan was a past winner.

I never handled the dog and only got to train with this team for a week before the dog and its handler was transferred to another base. This was a perk of having Top Dog honors, you get to keep the dog when you transfer to your next assignment at another base.

Czar- Also known as Czar-dog, this was a hard luck case i fell into. I arrived at Ellsworth Air Base in South Dakota where i was assigned to a kennel of 7 dogs. I was given Czar to work as the kennel already had a trainer.  He was a meek and gentle dog and a kind of a legend.

Czar had a terrible secret that was never talked about outside the kennel. It seems a past dog handler had tied Czar to the bumper of his jeep and took a nap.

When a call came over the radio to respond to an emergency, the handler took off in the jeep and forgot to untie the dog. Czar was dragged for several minutes before the handler heard the dogs cry and stopped the vehicle.

Czar was treated and returned to duty after a long recovery period. The guilty handler did not return to duty as a dog handler after his court hearing.

We did mostly Police Dog type work together and he was somewhat of a celebrity among the Military Law Enforcement community. He was the dog who lived, and this was years before Harry Potter was created.

He was such a gentle dog that they gave him to a new young handler as his first assignment dog and i was switched to my last and final K9.

DUKE- This was a good old reliable dog and we went through a few blizzards together and he responded like a pro. I was a very experienced handler by this point, so Duke and i were given most of the daily K9 assignments.

There were many dogs that i had the pleasure to work with and many handlers i met and respected. There were a few assholes along the way as you find in life, but it was the greatest dog training in the world and i was fortunate to get to experience it.




















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