No one definitively knows how the unique bond between man and canine came to develop some 12,000 plus years ago. What is believed though, is that over time, man and the canine came to recognize and respect each other’s unique predatory skills and the unquestionable loyalty that developed between the two. Along with increased hunting success, their union synergistically improved their safety and security in a hostile environment. Over time, man successfully domesticated the canine and developed several working breeds to meet his needs. Many of today’s breeds can be found working in specialty roles, such as, search and rescue, herding sheep, bomb detection, and personal protection just to name a few.
Much of our understanding of what canines can and cannot do we owe to military research; not only by the United States, but other countries of the world. Prior to 1941, Germany trained and utilized canines in many applications; but, it wasn’t long before the rest of the world’s militaries recognized the work Germany did to unlock the full potential of the canine. The United States though was slow to acknowledge the canine’s role in military applications. It wasn’t until the Korean War that the United States began to actively research and employ canines in military practice. By the end of the Vietnam War, the United States had developed a “K9 Corps” devoted to several specialty areas; such as, sentry duty, explosive detection, search and apprehension.
We cannot ignore the application of these advancements in canine training to the civilian sector. Today, “Service Dogs” (those dogs trained to assist people with disabilities), enrich the lives of the disabled. A young girl suffering from a seizure disorder can now go out of the house shopping because the service dog at her side was a post war duty rescue from the Air Force. A service dog makes life bearable for the veteran suffering from PTSD (post traumatic seizure disorder), or the double lower-limb amputee veteran that is confined to a wheel chair in her home. For each, the service dog is uniquely trained to step in when assistance is needed thereby significantly improving the veterans quality of life.
Despite the multitude of applications of the working canine, the most notable of late would be law enforcement. This can mean everything from State Fire Marshal, customs, local drug enforcement, search and rescue, and wildlife poaching. Over the years I have had the distinct honor of working with many of these working canines in both a professional and personal capacity. I have never once been disappointed by their loyalty, honesty, and overwhelming desire to please their handler. Even when they demonstrated overt aggression toward me I took it as a sign of respect because it was one of the rawest and honest expressions I have yet to encounter. I truly believe they have no room inside for deceit or lies, and in that is how I believe it is possible give unconditional love to their handler.
” American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company 27 Jan. 2015 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/working+dog
“Working Canine”, “Nova”, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/dogs/work-nf.html
“The Quiet Americans: A History of Military Working Dogs”, SSgt Tracy L. English, Office of History, 37th Training Wing Lakeland AFB, Texas, 15 December 2000.