Military dogs will benefit from state-of-the-art technology at the new $13 million veterinary hospital at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, TX. Lackland is the only base in the U.S. that trains dogs for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
“We act as the ‘Walter Reed’ of the veterinary world,” said U.S. Army Col. Bob Vogelsang, the hospital’s director. “We are the support organization for the 341st Air Force Training Squadron, which is responsible for acquiring, training and distributing the dogs. But the Army is the only branch with veterinarians so we provide the veterinary care.”
The original hospital was built in 1968, when the military trained dogs for service in Vietnam. An increased demand following September 11, 2001, overloaded the already cramped facility, which also rehabilitates dogs injured in the line of duty.
There are about 2,500 dogs already in service with military units around the world. Lackland has 750 more in training for dual certification in explosive detection and patrol (which means they will attack on command and protect themselves and their handlers).
German Shepards and Belgian Malinois, because of their intelligence, intensity and size, are the predominant breeds used by the military. After the dogs receive their initial 120-day training, based on “positive rewards” – generally a ball or rubber toy rather than food, members of the 37th Security Forces teach them and their trainers to work as a team. Dogs often continue to work to the age of ten, at which time they are offered for adoption.