News: Leave it to the dogs
Story by Lance Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
The dog was on a mission to find no more than an ounce of cocaine hidden by a handler on an aircraft large enough to carry up to 42,000 pounds of cargo.
Astor, along with fellow military working dogs Ralph and Lutyo, spent the morning with their handlers practicing “seeking,” or trying to find specific items, followed by aggression training.
With a sense of smell five to ten times stronger than a human’s, Astor can sift through the overwhelming scents of diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid and any personnel aboard the aircraft to find his target scent.
Further training becomes the responsibility of the MWD handlers after the dog has completed 120 days of basic obedience and discipline training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio.
“There’s a lot more that goes into it than just playing with your dog,” said Cpl. Ryan Baer, a Military Police officer and MWD handler with PMO.
Baer and fellow MWD handler Lance Cpl. Wayne Williams, a Military Police officer here, explained the difficulties of building rapport with a new dog, ensuring none of the dogs regress in their training, maintaining the health of the dogs and keeping the kennels clean.
PMO tasks the working dogs and their handlers with a variety of comprehensive missions at MCAS Miramar.
“We support all different units on the air station. We do flight line sweeps, health and comfort inspections, [President of the United States] Missions, [Vice President of the United States] Missions and Secretary of the Navy missions,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon St. George, a Military Police officer and MWD handler with PMO.
St. George explained that when the POTUS is in San Diego, the Secret Service requests assistance from all local working dog teams to ensure safety anywhere the POTUS might go.
Within minutes of inspecting the C-130, Astor had successfully zeroed in on the drugs and St. George rewarded him with a quick ball toss. Positive reinforcement is a staple of working dog training.
Astor rounded out his training day with aggression training. Handlers put an emphasis on training a dog to immediately stop a pursuit or release its vice-like grip upon hearing the appropriate command.
Another full training day behind him, Astor can go back to his kennel and enjoy a relaxing afternoon with his chew toy. Astor doesn’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but his rigorous training keeps him ready to meet the needs of his handlers.