Soldiers from 102 Military Working Dogs (MWD) Squadron, 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, have been conducting Live Fire Tactical Training on Sennelager Ranges in Germany.
During the training the new personal protection equipment for military dogs has been tested. All dogs are now equipped with goggles, boots, ear defenders and a cooling vest. The dogs also have flotation vests, which were not used during this training phase.
Live firing and movement around the battlefield provides a demanding environment to hone the soldier’s skills, not just for combat but as a dog handler also. For the military dogs, the experience of wearing their protective equipment, live firing and explosions reduces their tendency to be scared by the sounds of weapons firing and explosions allowing them to become calm and controlled in stressful situations - and simulating some of the possible stresses of battle that they could encounter on operations.
WO2 Paul Joblin, who has served numerous times with different dogs on operations, completing five deployments in Afghanistan and six deployments in Iraq, explained: “Our military working dogs have already saved many lives by detecting improvised explosive devices, weapons, ammunition, explosives and armed intruders. We are always very welcome by the troops on the ground and there are areas they would not access without dog handler and explosives search dog.
“It is vital that we take good care of our military working dogs to prevent them from getting hurt doing their work.”
The dogs wear goggles to protect their eyes during helicopter landings or during sandstorms in the desert. The boots protect the dogs’ paws from injuries by dangerous fluids, glass splinters or other dangers that could cause cuts. They are often deployed on rough grounds in war zones or regions of crisis which means it is very likely that there are dangerous splinters on the ground.
The ear defenders are helpful during the training phase to gradually de-sensitise the dogs to the ‘sounds of combat’ like shots and explosions. The dog handlers have to learn to effectively control their dogs to prevent them from jumping up and running into the line of fire.
Working together under fire
The soldiers have to instantly react to potentially dangerous situations, taking cover and, if necessary, returning fire. Every dog handler has to find his or her own method as every dog reacts differently. With practice and sensitivity, soldiers and military working dogs develop a compromise of successfully working together under fire as a team.
Decisions about what personal protection equipment the dog is wearing are made by the dog handlers. There are no standard situations. On patrol, for example, it does not make sense to make the dog wear ear defenders as hearing provides vital information to detect danger.
In hot climates, cooling vests are used to provide dogs with some relief. On patrol, they may be on the ground for many hours in temperatures above 40 degrees centigrade.