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Frontline for Dogs Means More than Just Flea Medication

2016/5/3 14:33:07
The average American dog has little more to worry about than what stray cats might be wandering into his yard and whether or not his owner has provided him with the right flea medication. Fleas are nothing a little Frontline for dogs can't handle; cats can always be chased away within a few barks.

There are some American dogs, however, who have a very different kind of frontline for dogs appearing to them -- thefrontline. Unbeknownst to many Americans, the US military employs about 3,000 Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, at any given time. These dogs are deployed throughout the world and serve as sentries, bomb and drug detection dogs, and service animals.

History of Military Working Dogs

This kind of frontline for dogs is far older than the effective topical flea medication of the same name. Although dogs have fought with the military unofficially since the Civil War, the Army's War Dog Program officially started in March 1942. During World War II, a total of 9,300 dogs served in Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa.

Since World War II, Military Working Dogs have been a part of every major American conflict. In the Korean War, 1,500 dogs were used, mostly for sentry duty. During Vietnam, another 4,000 dogs served.

A Frontline for Dogs in Afghanistan

At the present time, 650 military dogs serve alongside troops in Afghanistan. The dogs, it turns out, are far better at humans or advanced military technology at detecting IEDs, mines, and other types of explosives. In Afghanistan, the service of these military dogs is crucial, given that 90% of US troop casualties originate from the crude roadside bombs that the dogs are so good at discovering.

There's a downside to the services offered by man's best friend in war zones, however. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that dogs find war just as stressful as humans. According to a recent article published by The New York Times, approximately 5% of MWDs are showing signs of what vets and behavior specialists are calling "canine PTSD".

Different dogs react in different ways to combat stress, just like their human handlers do. Some dogs experience a radical change in personality; gentle dogs become aggressive and brave dogs become clingy and timid. Many dogs react in another predictable way: They refuse to work. Unlike their human counterparts, no amount of goading or threat of court martial by a superior officer can get them to perform again. Some of the dogs are successfully retrained and reintegrated with troops; the rest of the dogs face an early retirement from the military.

Adopting Frontline Dogs

It wasn't always possible to adopt war dogs. Of the thousands of dogs who served in Vietnam, for example, only 204 made it back to US soil. The rest were abandoned, euthanized, or given to the South Vietnamese army.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton made the adoption of war dogs legal. Today, not only do all the MWDs who retire find homes, they have a long waiting list of people hoping to adopt them.

Each year, about 300 dogs retire from their military service. All of them are eventually adopted. Military dog handlers are given first dibs at adopting, followed by law enforcement agencies and then civilians.

Once the dogs are adopted, the phrase "Frontline for dogs" goes back to just meaning topical flea medication. No longer will the animals have to sniff out bombs; chasing off cats goes back to being their natural pastime.