MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Working dog handlers with the Combat Center’s Provost Marshal’s Office trained with their canine counterparts Monday, to sniff out hidden explosives and narcotics and take a bite out of crime aboard the base.
The routine training helps dog handlers maintain their skills and helps sharpen the dog’s ability to detect the illegal substances, said Cpl. Samuel Corns, a working dog handler with PMO, and a native of Minneapolis.
“We do this all the time,” Corns said. “The handlers keep at it constantly, so we can get to the point where we can read the dog like a book.
“Trainers set up scenarios around the base and hid drugs and bombs and tested the dog’s ability to sniff them out and the haldner’s ability to read what their dogs are doing,” Corns said. “So the dog has to sniff it out and they have to read what the dog is doing.
“We train dogs to specifically sniff out narcotics and dogs that sniff out explosives,” he said.
Using separate dogs to sniff out different threats is necessary, Corns said.
“If you have a dog searching for both, you don’t know if he is detecting a bomb or a pound of marijuana,” he said. “Specializing allows trainers to focus the dogs on a specific skill and makes it easier for handlers to know what the dogs have found.”
Corns said each of the dogs are also very aggressive and trained as attack dogs, so handling skills were also a big part of the exercises.
“The dogs listen well, but they can get pretty mean,” he said. “They can stop people and detain them too with the help of their handler.”
Staff Sgt. Joseph Evans, a PMO working dog handler’s from Heavener, Okla., said the exercises also help to build a solid relationship between the dogs and handlers.
Evans described more in-depth the importance of a strong relationship between a dog and its handler.
“We keep them in teams as much as possible,” he said. “We look for important traits between a Marine and a dog, such as their attitude. We try to match them up as well as possible so they bond effectively.
“We stress the ability on the handler to read the dog’s body language. They obviously cannot communicate verbally, so they do it with how they [the dogs] move and conduct themselves,” Evans said. “When the handler can pick up on that, they will be effective at reading the dog at the right time.”