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Lance Cpl. Alton Davis, military police officer and dog handler, holds back his dog Jesse, Belgian Malignois, from attacking Lance Cpl. Ryan Miller, military police officer and dog handler, outside of the working dog kennels at Marine Corps Base Quantico, July 30.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Tabitha Bartley

Four-legs makes the best partner, friend

7 Aug 2012 | Lance Cpl. Tabitha Bartley Marine Corps Base Quantico

Having to say good-bye and make new friends is something service members and their families do often throughout a career. Leaving people behind can be made easier through technology because of today’s social media sites, email and the telephone. However, some Marines aren’t able to stay in contact with their best friends. Some Marines don’t text, tweet, email or even Facebook.

These Marines are military working dogs.

The working dog handlers for Marine Corps Base Quantico spend every day with their four-legged partners. They continue their K-9’s training, as well as, feeding, grooming, exercise and play.

The dogs arrive from Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, where they have been through the dog version of boot camp and Marine Corps Combat Training. The military working dog begins training with establishing a relationship with a handler. Once the relationship has begun to develop, they get basic obedience training. Advanced training where they learn controlled aggressiveness, attack, and building and open area searches

There will come a time, however, when the handlers will have to separate from their dogs and that’s “really the only down side to our job,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Corwin, military police officer and kennel master, referring to the K-9 companions. “We spend a few years together become best friends and then we have to leave them and you don’t get to stay in contact.”

The dogs no longer follow the handlers to their next duty station. Instead the dogs are assigned to a base as force multiplier. The Marines go through their tour at Quantico and then move onto their next duty station.

“We have to further train and mold them,” said Sgt. Joseph Fahrenbach, military police officer and dog handler. “Each one has different weakness.”

The dogs may need to improve in controlled aggressiveness, attacking, or building and open area searches.

Dogs have to ride quietly in the patrol vehicles without exhibiting hostility toward other people or dogs; to find a suspect or hostile person in a building or open area; to attack, without command, someone who is attacking its handler; to cease an attack upon command at any point after an attack command has been given; and other tasks.

Every day the trainers work with the dog to improve the tasks they have trouble with and make sure that the skills their strengths don’t decreases, said Corwin.

The dogs are matched with a handler who has a similar personality.

“Pepo and I are a lot alike,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Miller, military police officer and dog handler, referring to his dog. “We are both relaxed but, when we need to be viscous, we have no problem switching it on.”

The handlers all agreed; working with dogs is the best job in the military because they always look forward to coming into work.

“You could have the worst day, but the minute the dog looks at you, you forget about it,” said Lance Cpl. Alton Davis, military police officer and dog handler.

Absolute control over the dog is required at all time, proficiencies training must continue through the dog’s entire service life, but the handlers don’t just train the dogs. They talk and play with them as well.

“You have a best friend who is always there for you,” said Corwin. “No matter what you have to say, he will listen to you.”

Military dogs are able to serve long, useful careers and, in 2000, it was made possible by the Congressional Bill HR-5314, for retired military working dogs to be adopted, by their former handlers, or any individual, who has comparable experience or by law enforcement agencies, making it possible for the best friends to be reunited. Someday.
Marine Corps Base Quantico