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Building a bond with a military dog is crucial to mission success

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working dogs

USAF working dogs train daily. 

Military working dogs and their handlers are important members of the military and there are many jobs that would be much harder to accomplish without them.

Joint Base Charleston 628th Security Forces Squadron has military working dogs and handlers that help guard the base.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Schembri, a military working dog handler assigned to the 628th Security Forces Squadron, explained what working dogs are trained to do and why they are important. 

“The primary job of military working dogs is explosive and narcotic detection,” he said. “Most of them are dual purpose certified for patrol as well. This means we can send them as a less than lethal means of force. This helps with base security and is a deterrent for a suspect that is being hostile.”

Staff Sgt. Ashlee Pollard, a military working dog handler assigned to the 628th Security Forces Squadron, described the month long bonding process MWD go through with a new handler.

“When you initially get paired with a dog, you have to have a month where you just let the dog be a dog,” she said. “You take it on walks, give it love and overall just build the bond. Within the first month if you aren't bonding ... and the dog doesn’t respect you, you need to do a dog swap because that is a very crucial thing in our job — he’s trusting me and I'm trusting him and if there is no trust then the job isn't going to matter at all.”

Schembri said that the working dogs make progress in their training every day and they enjoy their training time because of the reward factor. 

“We advance their training on a daily basis as well as reviewing their basic training,” he said. “I believe that they like it quite a bit.

"They have their preference on the type of training. Some dogs like detection more because they prefer their reward of a toy like a Kong or a ball and then we have dogs who like aggression stuff better and they see it as a big game. It brings out their natural instinct to hunt prey.”

Schembri expressed that there are things the military is able to do efficiently that would not be possible without working dogs.

“Military working dogs are one of the best ways of finding explosives,” he said. “Nothing compares to what a MWD can do in terms of detection.”

Schembri said the handlers are just as important as working dogs. They are a team and the job could not be accomplished as efficiently without both of them.

“Military working dog handlers are trained to identify what the dogs are showing us,” he said. “Since a dog cannot speak or use critical thinking, we are there to critically think for them. They are just focused on their task but we have to think about the big picture.”

Pollard explained how the relationship between working dog and handler is significant in other ways.

“The relationship between the MWD and the handler is really important,” she said. “That's why the initial bonding experience between a MWD and a handler is so crucial.

"I don’t think it would critically hinder anything as far as the mission if there wasn’t a strong bond but it is super important when you go overseas because you are solely relying on the dog to be able to do their job or else something horrible could happen. For the aspect of deployment and being under stress, you need that bond.”