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By Sgt. Zachary Mott
Area Support Group - Qatar
Working in the heat of a Middle Eastern summer is tough in even the most pristine conditions. Leaders and experts at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, decided to make training better for the furry member of their military working dog teams.
The Area Support Group-Qatar Provost Marshal’s Office installed grass turf on the obedience course behind the kennel in March 2019.
“It gives them a place where it’s not just more and more sand. It gives them a place where the dogs have a little bit more of a sense of familiarity,” said Chief Petty Officer Phillip Kellman, kennel master, Camp As Sayliyah PMO. “They get to run and jump and play in that area. They can chase a ball or a toy without it getting coated in sand. It’s the little things that kind of add up and make a difference.”
The result is a team that is able to focus and handlers that employ their commands effectively. Ultimately there is a strong bond between the handler and the dog.
“Before, we didn’t spend a lot of time out there because it wasn’t the ideal conditions for us. Especially when it gets hot, the sand gets hot, too,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Sanchez, an MWD handler with ASG-Q PMO. “But now that we’ve got the green grass we’re out there every day and the dogs are progressing.”
One of the main duties of the MWD teams is to provide a presence at the installation gates and search vehicles before they enter. Performance was impacted because the dogs were not able to properly train on the sand and rock surface.
“Now that we’ve got our own turf here and it’s really soft, it definitely helps a lot,” Sanchez said. “If the dogs are too pent-up, you take them to the gate to go to work and they just want to run. Exercise in the yard helps with that a lot. I would say that’s the biggest benefit.”
The obedience of the dog to its handler allows teams to function seamlessly. Obedience, which Sanchez said is “the foundation of what we do,” had started to diminish and the skills of the teams were being impacted.
“Now I take her out here and give her a command and she does good,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Haverty about his relationship with his Belgian Malinois named Emily and training on the new turf obedience course. “We’re back to doing what we’re supposed to be doing and it makes her want to listen to me more. It makes her more focused on me. I can constantly work on different stuff.”
The turf obedience course is also a legacy item that future dog handler teams will get to utilize during their time here.
“For them to actually get the feel of grass on their feet again, I’m sure is a big morale boost for the dogs and it just makes them perform a lot better for their handlers,” said Kellman.
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