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Military working dogs, handlers build relationship

4 Nov 2013 | Lance Cpl. Donald Peterson

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa - “I’m letting my dog go!” warned the dog handler to the fleeing suspect.

“Go get him,” commanded the handler to his canine just before it pursued the running suspect, caught him, and dragged him to the ground.

Military working dog handlers with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion familiarized themselves with their furry counterparts by patrolling to locate simulated improvised explosive devices and drugs, as well as conducting bite-suit training Oct. 24 at Range 160 on Camp Hansen.

“It’s important that we conduct all these different types of training to ensure that each dog is able to perform their task as well as to ensure each handler understands how their dog responds to certain situations,” said Cpl. Justin B. Trujillo, a military working dog handler with 3rd LE Bn., III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. “Some dogs responded differently depending on if the person in the bite suit was aggressive or not. This is important for the handlers to know.”

The training involved more than 20 military working dogs, including drug and IED detection dogs along with attack dogs.

“Each military working dog brings a little more to the fight,” said Trujillo. “The purpose of this training is to get the dogs and their handlers used to working with each other.”

A positive relationship between the dog and handler is the key to creating a cohesive unit, according to Sgt. Stanley Chapter, a military working dog handler with 3rd LE Bn.

“Sometimes, before an (IED detection) dog finalizes that he has located an explosive, his behavior may change,” said Chapter. “If the dog handler and dog don’t know each other well enough, the handler may not recognize these signs and may call the dog off before he finalizes his find.

“Military working dogs are trained to think on their own in different situations that may arise as well as to follow the orders that are provided,” added Chapter.

For IED detection training, the Marines patrolled through a mock town with multiple simulated explosives hidden throughout the training area and within the buildings.

“It’s important that we reward our dogs after they (successfully) complete a portion of training with a ball or treat,” said Lance Cpl. Sean P. McKenzie, a military working dog handler with 3rd LE Bn. “This lets the dog know he did well.”

After the completion of the various events, the Marines discussed the training and the performance of their dogs, including identifying areas for improvement.

“Sometimes our dogs may react in ways we aren’t sure about or (not in) the way we want,” said McKenzie. “Discovering these problems now and working on them gives us a better understanding of our dog and makes us a better team (that is) ready for whatever may happen in the future.”

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