A wet nose sniffs around, furiously searching for a familiar scent. In an instant the trail is found and a military working dog charges in its direction, stopping at a distance safe enough for his handler to locate a simulated explosive.
Weekly military working dog competitions are held on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where scenarios like these are set up for MWD teams to test their abilities in a safe and controlled environment.
During the competition, teams are faced with a variety of scenarios designed to test their abilities and use their skills to accomplish the mission.
“The competition starts with giving each handler three minutes in the obedience yard to showcase obedience, tactical obedience, obstacles, off-leash capabilities and whatever else they want to bring that week,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Reid, 355th Security Forces MWD trainer. “From there they will have a timed detection problem, such as searching buildings or vehicles.”
The competition serves as a training aid for teams by providing an environment that promotes healthy rivalry, a catalyst for improvement.
“This gives the handlers an idea of areas they need to work on as a dog team while out on patrol,” Reid said. “We are all a team and we’re here to learn from each other and grow from each other’s ideas.”
Apart from being able to show off their skill sets and abilities, the competition builds morale, sharpens the military working dogs’ skills and enables better teamwork.
“I feel like the competitions are good because it keeps that competitive nature within the canine unit,” said Senior Airman Colton D’Agostino, 355 SFS canine handler. “It allows us to continue advancing our dogs, and each week we learn different aspects of the competition that we didn’t do well in – giving us a chance to improve on it for the next week.”
This is one innovation the unit implements in assisting and training for daily and future missions.