There are more than 2,000 military working dogs, across the globe, serving as part of the Department of Defense’s worldwide fighting force. Not only do these dogs have a sense of smell that cannot be replaced by modern technology but they also save lives while performing their duties.
The majority of conventional military working dogs and Transportation Security Administration working dogs receive their training at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas, by the Air Force 341st Training Squadron. The veterinarians and staff of the nearby DoD Military Working Dog Veterinary Service/LTC Daniel E. Holland Memorial Military Working Dog Hospital provide care for these government-owned animals. It is their job to ensure the dogs’ health and welfare while they undergo extensive training. The DODMWDVS veterinary team also assists with the procurement of healthy canine candidates for the military as well as the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration.
International restrictions put into place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic made travel to Germany and the Netherlands to procure a large number of dogs a challenging task. To make the purchasing trip successful, Public Health Command – Central Staff from the DODMWDVS teamed up with the Public Health Command-Europe team. In October, a veterinary radiologist and an animal care specialist from the DODMWDVS teamed up with PHC – E to ensure a successful “Buy Trip.”
The DODMWDVS team provided hands-on training to and received support from a veterinary emergency critical care specialist from PHC-E and a field veterinary service officer, from Public Health Activity- Rhineland-Pfalz, on the procurement process. The PHC-E Team assisted the state-side team with the comprehensive medical evaluation of more than 600 dogs, ensuring the healthiest animals were selected to become DoD and TSA working dogs.
All dogs purchased by the DoD undergo a rigorous screening process to ensure the best dogs are selected to be DoD Warfighters. Before the PHC-C veterinary team arrives, the selection process begins with a radiographic evaluation of the spine, hips and elbows of each individual dog. Then, extensive behavioral performance assessments are done by experienced military working dog trainers. This ensures the dogs have the temperament and drive needed to succeed at their jobs.
Following the behavioral assessments, the DODMWDVS team conducts a comprehensive medical evaluation of the dogs. This includes a thorough physical examination, complete bloodwork, and infectious disease screening.
This year’s collaboration between the veterinary teams in the United States and in Germany was a critical step on the path to highly trained, healthy dogs.
The importance of the military working dog procurement and training program to our service members and the entire Armed Forces was best summed up by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, “The capability that military working dogs bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine. By all measures of performance, their yield out performs any asset we have in our inventory.”