Animals have been used in warfare since humans first domesticated them. And dogs are no exception to the rule.
Since September 11, canines have taken on larger and more prominent roles throughout the US military, including within the Navy SEALs.
What’s special about canine units used in the Navy SEALs is the particularity of their training.
All Navy SEAL dogs undergo an intensity of training that matches the difficulties of their human counterparts.
It’s no wonder that these dogs have become vital components of SEAL team units.
Special Operations Forces canines are overwhelmingly chosen from one breed, the Belgian Malinois. Only 1% of candidate dogs make the cut for training.
Training is arduous, and it requires dogs to overcome their instincts and develop complete faith in their handlers.
Sound conditioning is another major hurdle the dogs must overcome. They must become fully comfortable working around the sound of gunfire. Here, a handler shoots off blanks to familiarise his dog to the sounds of war.
All dog candidates must also pass through a series of gruelling physical exams, just like their handlers, to ensure their overall health and well being.
Hurdles and obstacle courses, built to emulate a combat environment, are the corner stones of training.
'Dogs have been domesticated and bred for so long that the type of dog that is willing to stand up to and fight a human -- a human that is not frightened by that dog and physically capable of disabling that dog -- is a very, very rare animal,' former Navy SEAL Mike Ritland told the New York Post.
A series of exercises are used during training that, aside from further readying the dogs for their combat roles, also build a strong relationship between the handler and his dog. Handlers often refer to themselves as the dogs' 'dads.'
In the field, combat dogs are an invaluable asset. Here, a dog scouts ahead checking for explosives.
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