Dogs Play Important Role in Military Service
By Candice Freeland
PADUCAH, KY - The commonwealth of Kentucky will soon welcome three new residents who, after retiring from military service in Afghanistan, will begin working for the Whitley County Sheriff's Department and the Whitley County Jail.
These new employees are dogs. One was sent to Afghanistan five times.
Training dogs for police and military service is a large and important industry in the United States, and one facility for training police dogs specifically is located in McCracken County.
Jason Ferren is owner of K9 Elite, a company that sells police and military equipment. His company ships orders to all branches of the US military.
Ferren says the dog breeds that are most often used in police and military work are Belgian Malinois, Labrador, German Shepherd, and Dutch Shepherd. The labradors are primarily trained for scent work, while others receive "dual-purpose" or "multi-purpose" training for explosive detection, drug detection, obedience, bite work, and tracking.
Ferren says there are specific qualities that a dog chosen for police or military work will possess.
"Dogs that have crazy ball drive. One that always wants to chase the ball-that's called prey drive. When you throw the ball into the woods, or into the tall brush, he keeps hunting for it. He keeps looking...until he finds it. That's hunt drive. Then the other one is object drive, meaning, once he finds it, he doesn't want to let it go. He wants to hang on to it. That's to be a drug or explosive detection dog."
Regarding "bite work," Ferren says dogs need to have a "seriousness" to their personality in order to be considered.
The majority of US military service dogs are trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. There are also four civilian contractors employed for training.
Sometimes, just like their human counterparts, the animals are severely injured or killed while working, so precautions exist to see that they are given as much protection as possible.
One such item is shoes, designed to protect the animal's feet from dangers on the ground. Also, goggles are used to protect the dog's eyes from debris and sand. There are muffles to protect the ears from loud, explosive noise. Also, cameras can be mounted onto a dog's vest so handlers can see him or her at all times, even though the dog may not be visible to the enemy.
There is no question that these animals are highly trained, and may frighten some people. They can take a grown man to the ground in a split-second. Even so, they are stunning in their beauty, agility, loyalty, and cooperation.
Two examples are Ike and Nitro, two Belgian Malinois owned by Jason Ferren. When a reporter asked to make pictures of the dogs, they sat still until the camera stopped flashing.