VICENZA, Italy – As part of a Europe wide training series, Military Working Dog handlers assigned to Vicenza, Italy attended a conflict management seminar to improve their skills in reading their dogs’ behavior in order to reduce the risk of preventable MWD bites.
In her role as the U.S. European Command veterinary behaviorist, Maj. Desireé Broach, an Army veterinarian assigned to Veterinary Medical Center Europe, conducted several conflict management seminars at kennels across Germany and Italy within the last few months.
Over the past year, dog handlers in Europe have experienced more bites than usual from military working dogs during routine kennel care, according to Duane Stinson, the U.S. Army Europe MWD program manager. He says this mainly occurred when the handlers went into the kennels to clean them or feed the dogs.
“When the dog bite cases were looked at, the common denominator was that they could have been prevented if the Soldiers had been able to read canine behavior and communication signals,” said Broach. “Unfortunately, new dog handlers are not currently taught to read behavior at the Military Working Dog Handler School at Lackland (Air Force Base, Texas).”
Stinson asked Broach to provide her expertise in MWD conflict management training based on her background in animal behavior.
Together, they created a series of trainings that addressed working dog psychology, drives and behavior, communication and canine body language, as well as canine stress management and socialization.
“Our goal is to train dog handlers to be able to read the dog’s behavior in order to reduce risk of preventable MWD bites and therefore reduce risk to the force and enable dog handlers to continue to successfully meet mission,” said Broach.
Broach and Stinson visited more than five military kennels in Europe to reinforce this skillset among MWD handlers to react properly to their dog’s behavior and body language to make kennel care a low risk event.
The training is currently only offered to U.S. Army Europe, but the team is hoping to extend their training to other U.S. military branches and host nation militaries in the upcoming year.