Army dog handlers form a partnership with their animals in order to assist the military in duties such as securing buildings and detecting explosives. There are around 1,300 dog handling teams worldwide; in the United States military, for example, the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps all have their own dog teams.
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Each section of the military will have its own base where dog handler training takes place; for the US Air Force, training takes place at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Other militaries around the world will have assigned bases to specialise in dog handler training.
Army dog handlers will pick up a number of skills during training, depending on the level of responsibility of the role they're being trained for. At a basic level, an army dog handler learns to look after the dog he forms a partnership with; this involves acquiring knowledge of how to communicate with the dog and how to care for it. He is instructed in how to apprehend an intruder and to how to handle the dog while in the field. He may also be trained in dog team management at a more advanced level.
In addition to the specialist training they receive which relates to the dogs, an army dog handler also undergoes training in a similar fashion to any other soldier. This means that she will become proficient in the use and maintenance of firearms and in the operation of military vehicles as well as be expected to pass a number of physical tests, such as assault courses.
Military dogs provide several common functions, which both handler and canine will learn together in order to co-operate in real-life situations. In the US military, for instance, dogs are used for either bomb sniffing or drug detection missions. Depending upon the dog they are partnered with, dog handlers are thus trained to specialise in certain missions. For example, a dog handler involved in drug detection activities will receive training on the Mexican border, where both she and her dog companion will learn to recognise illegal drugs and how they're transported.
After qualifying, army dog handlers may choose to specialise in a number of fields. Some of these prepare the handler and their dog for certain types of mission, such as vehicle searching, arms explosive detection and person tracking. Meanwhile, a handler might decide that she wishes to support other handlers as a military vet or as a trainer.
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