PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Most people generally know the tasks the military working dog performs throughout the military. Whether it’s working security, conducting patrols or aiding security forces, MWD’s are synonymous with life in the military. But what most people on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, might not know is how to act around the dogs here and their handlers so that everyone remains safe.
“I’ve seen people do some crazy things around the dogs,” said Staff Sgt. Chelsea Boe, 21st Security Forces military working dog handler.
“People will pet the dog even after seeing the Do Not Pet sign,” she continued. “In the airport, people usually don’t pay attention and can accidentally kick the dogs.”
It’s these kind of interactions that can frustrate the handlers, as well as, the dogs and could lead to a dangerous encounter.
“There’s never been an accidental bite here on Peterson, and that’s in part due to the training of the handlers,” said Boe.
When the dogs are out and around Peterson AFB, it’s the attention and actions of their handlers that keep everyone safe.
“The dogs definitely respond to our emotions,” Boe said. “If I’m having a bad day, the dog will have a bad day. If we get frustrated, the dogs get frustrated.”
What the handlers find is that a lot of people don’t know how to act around the dogs, whether it’s through fear or ignorance, sometimes their own actions can cause an unsafe situation.
“I think a lot of people view our dogs like their own dogs they have at home, which isn’t the case,” said Senior Airman Karissa Fitzpatrick, 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler.
“These are highly trained dogs that are bred for their intelligence as well as aggressiveness, but at the end of the day they’re still animals,” Fitzpatrick said. “If they’re uncomfortable or feel threatened, they’re going to react to that.”
A few good rules of thumb for how to when military working dogs are around are as follows:
-Do NOT pet or approach the dog.
-Do NOT make any sudden moves, especially when near the handler. The dogs are trained to react to threats to themselves or their handlers. Any sudden moves may startle the dog and cause it to react as if threatened.
-Do NOT allow children to approach or pet the dog. Most military working dogs don’t spend a lot of time around children and are not socialized towards them. A child screaming, waving hands or running at a dog can be a highly stressful event for the dog and could cause the dog to feel very threatened.
-Do NOT ask the handler what the dog’s job is, it’s a matter of operational security and shouldn’t be discussed.
Throughout the year Security Forces will hold demonstrations with the dogs so that a better understanding of their work comes about. Following these general guidelines allow the MWD handler and the dog itself to work more efficiently without incident.