Afghanistan Bomb Sniffing Dogs Step In As Soldier’s Stress Relief

A fascinating ‘Washington Times’ article reveals a new development in the evolution of bomb detector dogs – from explosives sniffing to helping soldiers deal with battlefield stress:

‘Today, under Gen. Oates‘ successor, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero,JIEDDO is de-emphasizing the role of dogs and touting air- and ground-based sensors designed to detect the enemy’s ever-changing types of buried bombs.

In some cases, the dogs become more of a soldier’s companion than an animal programmed to find a certain scent, Mr. Korba said.

“What we have discovered about the dog-scent concept is that they’re not as successful under certain circumstances as they could be,” he said. “It turns out if you treat the dog like a machine, it does a very, very effective job.

“The problem is our troops end up befriending these animals and they engage with them on different levels, and it kind of hurts their effectiveness, Mr. Korba said. “One of the things that we have discovered over the last few years is that we don’t have a good procedure right now to train our people how to use the dogs. And so sometimes they are used effectively and sometimes they are not.”

In fact, this may open a whole new avenue of dogs helping soldiers win on the battlefield – not a fighting dog but a soldier’s essential companion to help combat PTSD, fear and battle fatigue.

I am surprised this role for the dog has not been utilised earlier. I am hoping that research is being done right now to study the benefits of dog companionship on soldiers in active duty.

Anyone involved in such research or with a personal experience of dogs on the front line is welcome to write to this publication: I will gladly publish your contribution.

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About Dr Vadim Chelom

Dr Vadim Chelom is a Registered Veterinarian, a writer and an educator

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