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380AEW Article

Defenders, K9 embrace deep blue

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

U.S. and coalition service members participated in annual water-based aggression training with their K-9 partners at the base pool here, Jan. 18.


The purpose of the training, hosted by 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog Section alongside their Australian counterparts, is to familiarize military working dogs with bodies of water and encourage them to correctly perform their duties in such an environment.


“We have pups ranging from two to 11 years old with varying amounts experience in the water so it’s important to give the dogs adequate exposure to this kind of environment, something they might run into while out on a real world mission so they’re prepared to respond,” said Staff Sgt. David, a 380th ESFS military working dog handler.


Military working dogs were brought in one-by-one by their handlers to jump and swim in the water for a bit, before starting their bite work training.


Some of the dogs showed reluctance to enter the water and required coercion on part of their handlers with items such as tennis balls, tug toys and a few other bite-sized items to entice them into the pool.


“Some of the younger pups didn’t really care for the water too much,” said Tech. Sgt. William, a 380th ESFS military kennel master. “They were trying to get out the entire time, but we held onto to the dogs, soothed them, petted them – showed them positive reinforcement, that it’s okay to be in the water. They still didn’t like it.”


Other, older dogs were more proactive in their approach, immediately seeking out the aggressor’s bite sleeves upon entering the pool area.


“We use the bite sleeves to get the dogs to engage an intruder or any sort of bad person that may be in the water so the dogs know its fine to go into water and attack if necessary,” said Royal Australian Air Force Leading Aircraftman Grady Humphries, assigned to Combat Support Unit 14 and aggressor for the training. “We try to find something that has more [stimuli] for the dog to get into the water to actually convince them more that ‘hey, this is more fun, I’m not worried about getting wet.’ For many of the dogs that’s the bite sleeve.”


Bite sleeves are leathery training aids worn over the arm by agitators or trainers to protect themselves from injury during bite training with military working dogs.


In addition to the water familiarization, Williams said the training allowed dogs and their handlers to strengthen their bonds.


“We were able to show the dogs that ‘hey, I’m here to help you out when you need me’ in the water, further strengthening the bond that lets the dogs know they got this dad or mom to help them out. That’s probably the best thing a handler can do.”


(Due to security and safety concerns some last names were removed)