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Military working dog, baby, latches on with her teeth to the bite suit of Cpl. Paul Kelley, working dog handler, Provost Marshall’s Office, while swimming during an aquatics aggression class at the base training tank, July 14, 2014

Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria

Dog Days: Aquatic aggression class at base training tank

14 Jul 2014 | Cpl. Charles Santamaria

The handler lets go of the tightly threaded, black leash, letting the full force of Baby, a military working dog, come upon Cpl. Paul Kelley, military working dog handler, Provost Marshal’s Office. With one furious leap, Baby pushes Kelley into the pool with her teeth firmly clamped onto the arm of his bite suit. Her jaw remains locked down as her handler maintains control with verbal commands and escorts the simulated perpetrator out of the pool.

Combat Center Provost Marshal’s Office, K-9 Division, conducted an aquatics aggression class at the base training tank July 14, 2014. The training session involved the dogs getting accustomed to swimming and maintaining focus on a simulated target while in water.

“How quickly a dog gets accustomed to training in and around water depends on each individual dog and the handler’s training,” Cpl. Jonathan Scudder, military working dog handler, PMO. “These dogs have been trained around this desert environment. Exposing them to water prepares them for where they may go when they change stations or handlers.”

Military working dogs change duty stations just as Marines do. With this in mind, the military dog handlers prepare their dogs as much as possible with various training.

“If a working dog gets deployed with a handler to a combat zone and the Marine has to swim a distance with his rifle and combat load, he has to have confidence that his dog will be able to follow him effectively,” Kelley said.

Over the course of the class, the handlers slowly accustomed the dogs to water by first leading them into the pool then progressing into biting and stages of aggression in and around the training tank. After going through different techniques by the water, the handlers went through the same stage transitioning into the pool.

“We take baby steps to ease them into the idea of swimming and practicing what they know while in water,” Scudder said. “It’s best described as success of approximation.”

The working dogs with PMO are dual-purpose, specializing in both patrolling and drug and bomb detection. Although military working dogs move stations, handlers train to best prepare them for the future.

“We have to prepare them for where they may go,” Kelley said. “As handlers we have to make sure we keep training to build that confidence with them while we have them.”

The K-9 Division uses various training techniques to keep their working dogs sharp. The kennels conduct aquatics training, practice patrols, bomb detection, obedience training and building clearing regularly to maintain readiness.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms