Service Dogs and Assistance Dogs aren’t the only dogs in the world who do amazing, life-changing work, but they are one of the few types of working dogs clearly defined and protected by United States federal law. Too many people don’t understand the differences between many types of working dogs, though, and it’s time to clear up some of the confusion.
In October 2019, a trained Military Working Dog (MWD) named Conan helped take down the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, during a special operations raid. K9 Conan and members of Delta Force chased Baghdadi into a dead-end tunnel. Baghdadi subsequently panicked and detonated his suicide vest, resulting in his death and that of 3 children he brought with him. Conan has been hailed as a hero dog for his part in the successful raid. While information about him is scarce as both he and his handler are still operational, here are 5 things we do know about him. He's a Belgian Malinois Conan is a male Belgian Malinois. This medium to large herding dog breed is a hardworking powerhouse of ideal size and temperament for multipurpose fieldwork. Furthermore, the Belgian Malinois traits of trainability, exemplary performance under stress, and unmatched athleticism make them a prime choice for Military Working Dog positions. The U.S. Military also utilizes German Shepherds and Dutch Shepherds, as well as Labrador Retrievers, for both combat roles and detection jobs. Belgian Shepherds, including Malinois, tend to be smaller than their German cousins. Males average 24 to 26" tall at the shoulder and weigh approximately 60 to 70 pounds. They boast a sleek double coat that's most commonly seen with varying shades of brown, tan, and black, although the breed does come in several other color combinations. They have a sharp, inquisitive, take charge nature. Most members of the breed are extremely intense. Belgian Malinois require highly experienced handling and extensive training. They do not often make good pets or Service Dogs, although they thrive as working and performance dogs. MWD Conan's Training Took Place in Texas The United States Air Force selects, trains, and places Military Working Dogs of all kinds. K9 Conan, like all MWDs, was trained by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, which is located in Texas. Specifically, Conan belongs to the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Military Working Dog program. He's attached to the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, more commonly known as Delta Force. Delta Force is an Army unit that falls under the umbrella of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command. Military Working Dogs utilized by U.S. special operations teams undergo some of the most rigorous and sophisticated training in the world. These special dogs run messages, serve as eyes and ears for their handlers, sniff out hostiles, assist with
In early 2017, multiple deadly forest fires swept the country Chile. As a result of these fires, 11 people lost their lives, wholes towns disappeared from the map, and over a million acres of wildlands burned. The aftermath of forest fires not only destroys lives but also devastates local flora and fauna. Animals leave due to lack of food, invasive species take over, and the ground lies barren. Usually, nature heals itself over the course of many years. For some regions in Chile, though, a special team of working dogs is out to lend nature a helping hand. Border Collies Save the Day After Forest Fire Dog trainer Fransisca Torres and owner of the environmental NGO Pewas decided to put her 3 Border Collies to work doing an important job -- reseeding the Chilean forests. All 3 dogs are female and they're named Das, Olivia, and Summer. Each of the dogs wears a backpack designed to allow seeds to scatter as the dogs run. Torres drives to the day's work location and releases the dogs from the truck. They run through the forest leaving seed trails in their wake. Being Border Collies, they can rack up some impressive mileage each day -- close to 20 miles each, in fact! Furthermore, they can scatter close to 20 pounds of seeds. Most humans who reseed the forests after fires average 5 miles per day and oftentimes far less. After the packs are empty, the dogs return to their handler for love, treats, and a refill. Once their packs are restocked, they're off again. The efforts have already started to pay off -- regrowth is occurring much quicker in the regions the dogs have ran. Greenery and vines are already starting to show. The efforts by Torres, Das, Olivia, and Summer have been praised by the president of Chile and multiple organizations dedicated to environmental preservation and awareness.
We are always astounded at the variety of jobs that dogs are able to do. The canines at Working Dogs for Conservation (WD4C) are no exception. WD4C trains scent detection dogs to help researchers monitor the health of wildlife, catch poachers, find contraband such as guns and ammunition, find invasive species and more. We caught up with Pete Coppolillo, the Executive Director of WD4C to learn more about how they are changing the world and how you can help. What does Working Dogs for Conservation do? As the world’s leading conservation detection dog organization, WD4C channels dogs’ strong sense of smell in order to protect wildlife and aid in conservation efforts. Pete explained that in the past, wildlife were monitored by catching animals, which is not only very expensive, but also inefficient. However, this all changed when they realized that fecal matter (scats) left over from the species could provide important insights into the current condition of these animals. According to Pete dogs are really good at this task because it’s, “an evolutionary way that carnivores leave messages to other carnivores.” He explains that, “nowadays we can tell individuals apart, who they are related to and we can uncover all sorts of other things from scats like hormones, stress hormones, reproductive hormones. We can tell if they’re breeding or not, if they’re stressed out and even their diets or diseases. So, the value, the amount of information you can get from a scat, just keeps going up and up because the lab techniques are so good.” Currently, along with sniffing out scats, WD4C also assists with anti-poaching initiatives, using trained dogs to locate poaching contraband, such as guns and ammunition, aids in finding invasive species in waterways and natural areas, as well as works to protect endangered and diseased wildlife. Committed to continual innovation, WD4C is always exploring new areas where dogs can work to make a difference. The possibilities are endless. How was the organization started? WD4C was started by four women co-founders who, “were all wildlife biologists, people who had experience working with dogs and all of them were working on species, mostly carnivores that were hard to work with, hard to monitor, hard to count”, explains Pete. After realizing the value of using dogs to aid in wildlife and conservation efforts, they decided to start WD4C which now in its twentieth year works in approximately twenty-five countries, on thirty-nine projects. What is Rescues2theRescue? WD4C
Little dogs can do really big work! And Sealyham Terriers are definitely little dogs. Learn how little Therapy Dogs help veterans and children with special needs, Take for example Jasper. Jasper is a Sealyham Terrier and an Airport Therapy Dog. Tonight, he is snuggling up at an undisclosed location, on the bare floor, with military deployment troops – his head on the chest of a soldier. The young soldier puts his arm around Jasper, then falls back asleep. What is a Therapy Dog? Therapy Dogs do a valuable job by providing unconditional love, emotional support and an understanding, listening ear anywhere they’re needed. Many people are familiar with Therapy Dogs visiting hospitals, schools, universities group homes and libraries, but Therapy Dogs also provide a valuable service at funerals, disaster sites or anywhere else emotions, grief, and tension may run high. Therapy Dogs are typically well-trained, sweet-natured, friendly dogs who are, first and foremost, pets. Their family trains them and often has them certified via a therapy organization, and therapy dog teams are most often volunteers. Unlike Service Dogs which are specifically trained to help a disabled individual with tasks they have difficulty completing, Therapy Dogs do NOT have public access, with or without their handler, and they may only enter buildings (that don’t allow all pets to enter) with a direct invitation to the dog and handler or to the therapy dog organization. How Do You Train and Certify a Dog for Therapy? Because Therapy Dogs work with the public — including small children,disabled individuals, senior citizens and others with physical or cognitive limitations — on a very intimate level, many hospitals, nursing homes or other institutions request that any dog brought into their facility is trained, certified or registered with another group, even though it is not required by any federal or local laws. There are dozens of organizations which certify therapy dogs. If you would like your dog to also be recognized by the AKC, here is a list of places to contact. Airport Confidential Military Deployments The troops sleep in empty buildings and warehouses awaiting transport to their departure flights that take off from the Reno/Tahoe runway. Jasper has special security clearance along with his handler, Judy Mugrauer, to console the troops before takeoff. “We never know where they’re headed,” says Mugrauer, “we are not allowed to tell when or where we are meeting the troops, the confidentiality always reiterated before we arrive at the
Cancer Detection Dogs recently gained the spotlight for their ability to accurately smell cancer in breath, blood, or other tissue samples. These unique medical detection dogs undergo specialized training to alert their handler to the presence of cancerous cells. While this branch of scent work is relatively new, using dogs to detect, locate, or verify scents has been done for thousands of years. What is BioScentDX? BioScentDX, a company specializing in using canines for cancer screening, presented the results of their recent cancer detection research and studies at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting held during the April 2019 Experimental Biology symposium. Dogs, BioScentDX says, can be trained to detect cancer from scent samples with 97% accuracy. Heather Junqueira, the lead researcher and study director at BioScentDX, says dogs offer a low-cost, minimally invasive way to screen high volumes of patients. Quicker, cheaper methods of detection allow for earlier discovery of cancer, which allows for treatment to begin during the early stages of the disease. "This work is very exciting because it paves the way for further research along two paths, both of which could lead to new cancer-detection tools," said Junqueira. "One is using canine scent detection as a screening method for cancers, and the other would be to determine the biologic compounds the dogs detect and then design cancer-screening tests based on those compounds." Dogs' Brains Specialize in Processing Scents The canine brain prioritizes scent over the other senses. Furthermore, it dedicates a whopping 40% of sensory function to processing scents and smells. This allows dogs to reliably identify and catalog millions of smells. When a trained detection dog encounters a target odor, they alert their handler so appropriate action can be taken. For some detection dogs, the target odor is drugs, explosives, or the scent of a missing person. For others, like the cancer detection dogs at BioScentDX, the target odor is cancer. There are several breeds of dogs capable of locating and identifying scent diluted to parts per trillion. Beagles, Labradors, and German Shepherds rank high among them. "Parts per trillion" looks like a single spritz of perfume in a stadium or a half teaspoon of sugar tossed into an Olympic sized swimming pool. Another way to look at parts per trillion is with time -- it's the equivalent of 1 second out of 32,000 years. BioScentDX exclusively uses Beagles for their cancer screening programs but other researchers have ran
Search and Rescue Dogs perform incredible feats. Using their nose, they help their human handlers pinpoint the lost and missing, regardless of environment. Most people think of disaster search dogs or wilderness search dogs when thinking of search and rescue dogs, but search dogs also work in water, as do rescue dogs. Many think of "search and rescue" as a single thing, but SAR dogs can be trained for searching, for rescuing, or for both. When it comes to water and aquatic environments, there's a distinct difference between searching and rescuing. In a nutshell, water search dogs sweep lakes, ponds, rivers, and the surrounding terrain for human scent. Most water search dogs serve as human remain detection K9s but some also work the scent of live humans in the water, like divers or free swimmers. In contrast, water rescue dogs help people who are in trouble in the water, like struggling swimmers or boaters who became trapped in a storm. They swim out to those people and via varying means, bring them back to their handler. The handler is usually part of a rescue team. Depending on the environment, the human team members often remain in a helicopter or sturdy boat while the dog performs the rescue. Search Dogs Find Human Scent Water Search Dogs are also known as Water Recovery Dogs or Water Recovery K9s. These specialized search and rescue dogs alert to human scent in the water. Typically, they're trained to alert to the scent of human remains. Water Search Dogs help police find victims of drowning or to locate other bodies in the water. After hurricanes or massive floods, Water Rescue Dogs assist rescue teams with locating those missing as a result of the disaster so their family can get closure. Water Search Dogs often start out as Human Remains Detection Dogs and then they add water to their environmental skill set. Human scent is human scent, but the dog has to learn that it can be under water. Most of these search and rescue dogs work from a boat. Sometimes, for smaller bodies of water, they'll search along the shoreline or under bridges. The same breeds that excel with land-based search and rescue often perform water searches, too. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, and various herding breeds, like Border Collies, regularly cross train for water searches or recovery work. Rescue Dogs Help People in Distress In contrast to Water Search Dogs, Water Rescue
Fire departments and dogs have been working together for a couple centuries or more. Historically, Dalmatians were known for their ability to clear the way for the horse-drawn fire wagons. In modern times, working dogs still play a very important, but different, role in fire departments across the country. Arson Dogs Arson Dogs sniff out accelerants left behind at fire scenes. These hard-working detection dogs perform important work with their fire investigation handlers. They're taught to sift through the remains of suspicious fires, smelling for trace amounts of common fire-starting substances like gasoline or lighter fluid. When an arson dog encounters a substance they've been trained to detect, they sit next to the source of the scent in order to alert their handler to its presence. Arson Dogs can be any breed of dog with a lot of food or toy drive. Usually, though, arson dogs come from the retriever or sporting dog groups, which includes popular breeds like the Labrador Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, and several types of working spaniels. There are hundreds of arson dogs at work in the States today, with many of them provided to fire departments by the State Farm Arson Dog Training Program. Search and Rescue Dogs Search and Rescue Dogs search for lost or missing people in wilderness, urban, and disaster environments. Fire departments often employ Search and Rescue Dogs to help them find or recover missing people more quickly. Some teams, like the Phoenix Fire Department in Arizona, are certified as a FEMA Task Force, and their search dogs work worldwide during urban disasters. Search and Rescue Dogs are usually medium or large dogs who possess a lot of stamina, drive, and good temperaments. Labradors, Border Collies, and German Shepherds excel at search and rescue work. Tracking Dogs Tracking Dogs follow scent trails left on the ground by wandering people. These specialized scent work dogs excel at recovering people on foot, whether or not they want to be found. When the trail is fresh, a tracking dog can follow it through a variety of terrains, including urban ones like concrete or asphalt. Some tracking dogs can follow trails that are weeks or months old. Fire departments commonly use tracking dogs to help recover lost children or missing elderly people. Bloodhound are the most well-known tracking dogs, but Labradors, German Shepherds, and other working dog breeds often perform the job well. Crisis Response Canines Crisis Response Canines are a type of therapy dog. These
Search and Rescue Dogs work with their handlers, team, and emergency personnel to find and recover people or human remains. Utilizing scent, these highly trained dogs can cover and clear vast amounts of hostile terrain quickly, thoroughly, and effectively. They work on a grid, with the dog covering the entire grid side to side.
I was lost among the junipers in the starkly beautiful La Tierra Mountains just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. I sat in a deep stream bed that could drown me in seconds with one flash flood. Lucky for me, temperatures hovered around 60 degrees during a storm-free afternoon. Would I be found by the search dog, I nervously wondered?