Jun 22, 2016

Navy Seal Dogs

My Tale of Training Canines for Combat
by Mike Ritland

This book is about how military working dogs are trained and used. The author served as a Navy Seal and then became instrumental in training dogs for government and military use. There is a brief history of how dogs have been used in various wars in the appendix (which put into perspective some of the things I read in Cracker!) Main part of the book describes in detail how the dogs are trained. Ritland describes how carefully the dogs are bred and chosen, and the regiment they go through to prepare them for specific kinds of work. I found all this interesting, although some aspects of the training seemed to be skipped over or not explained very thoroughly. I think I found out why later on: this book is a re-issue of an earlier one the author wrote titled Trident K9 Warriors. It has been edited for a juvenile audience. That said, I didn't  find the writing style too simplified, and it kept me mostly interested throughout.

The second part of the book describes a number of handlers and the dogs they were paired with. To me it seemed like it went into more detail about the backgrounds of the men in service than describing the work the dogs actually did. The brief stories describe some incidents with dogs and handlers in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East. It's pretty amazing what these animals can do. Impressive enough that they can scent and locate hidden bombs or weapons, alerting very specifically so that soldiers can avoid or address the danger. But then I read about a dog which indicated he'd found the scent of explosives- the men uncovered nothing. Through other means they found out the dog was indicating the exact location where explosives had recently been made. Even though the items were no longer there, this information was invaluable to the team. I was also enlightened to learn that military (and police) dogs trained to apprehend people actually save their lives- whether criminals, the enemy or an innocent. In many situations a cop or soldier would shoot at a presumably dangerous person fleeing or hiding- but if there is a dog who can apprehend them instead- holding and disarming them, but not trained to kill- then using firearms can be avoided.

At first glance through the book I mistakenly assumed that the dogs in the pictures were German shepherds. In the past, labrador retrievers, dobermans, rottweilers and pit bulls have also been used by the miliatry. Turns out most of the dogs in this book are Belgian Malinois, and the author explains why this breed is the best for his purpose. At the end there is a brief chapter about his foundation that helps find appropriate homes for retired military dogs- and cares for them in his training kennels in the meantime.

I kind of wish I'd found the earlier version of this book first. I probably would have appreciated it a bit more- but reviews tell me it has nearly all the same material, so I don't know if I would get much out of reading it now.

Rating: 3/5       190 pages, 2013

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