Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

DHA Spearheads Effort for Working Dog Research Collaboration

Picture of three different dogs Bagzi, Shelton, and Batman (left to right), 647th Security Forces military working dogs, take a break from training at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, May 7, 2021. All three MWDs work as patrol explosive detection dogs and are trained to detect the presence of improvised explosive devices by smell (Photo by: Air Force Airman 1st Class Makensie Cooper, 15th Wing).

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Veterinary Service | Public Health | Research and Innovation

SERIES: This is the First in a series of articles focused on the Defense Health Agency's role in Military Working Dog care.

Military Working Dogs provide a critical force protection capability and are an important force multiplier for the combatant commander.

The Defense Health Agency's Veterinary Service is at the forefront of the effort to develop and foster working dog knowledge sharing and research collaboration within the Department of Defense, federal and state government agencies, and civilian research and academia communities of interest. Research efforts to evaluate and optimize the health, readiness, and performance of working dogs, including MWDs, is vital to saving the lives of service members and civilians.

To disseminate this research and share ideas, more than 220 people attended the third annual Working Dog Research Forum March 31-April 1, representing working dog research, veterinary care, and employment from the DOD, federal and state governments, civilian academia, laboratories, and agencies.

The forum explored a variety of issues associated with working dogs in the military and civilian sector and their experiences, physical performance, protection, and medical management if wounded on the battlefield.

Presentations included:

  • MWD Fitness Assessment and Physical Capabilities
  • No More Underdogs: Releasing the Full Potential of the MWD though Fitness Assessment and Physical Conditioning
  • Tranexamic Acid in Dogs with Traumatic Bleeding or Spontaneous Hemoabdomens
  • Canine Escape Respirator: Project Update
  • Person-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (PBIED) Detection Evaluation
  • Developing Odor Capture and Delivery Technology and Canine Training Methodologies to Facilitate Canine Detection of Hazardous and Restricted Targets

Army Lt. Col. Sarah Cooper, chief of animal medicine at DHA's Veterinary Service, organized the forum.

"As a veterinarian, I am familiar with the canine combat casualty care and physical conditioning topics," she said. "I found the olfaction research interesting, and it expanded my understanding of the science of olfaction and how complicated developing items like detection training aids can be."

Among the presenters was Army Maj. Brian Farr, a veterinarian who spoke about a qualitative study of explosive detection canines (EDCs) and the knowledge requirements that underpin explosive detection work.

"The gap in knowledge is where and how we're going to assess these dogs" and "the need for solid understanding" of their performance capabilities and limits, Farr said.

He noted that "a lot of the explosive dog world is tacit knowledge" accumulated by trainers, kennel masters, and handlers through experience and that senior leaders "are processing knowledge and passing it on to junior personnel," but these data have not been captured effectively.

His small-scale study asked questions of 17 military, federal and law enforcement agents, agricultural, and private experts about requirements for an effective EDC and how their performance can degrade. The questions were asked during semi-structured interviews, and then hundreds of pages of transcripts were completed and data coded. The "richness of the data" made up somewhat for the small sample size, Farr said.

In the future, Farr and his team hope to do a "quantitative survey of current handlers to determine broad and organization-specific requirements and frequency and range of degrading factors. We need to pull that information out of the heads of handlers and leaders," he said.

Army Lt. Col. Emilee Venn, chief of the Army Public Health Center's Animal Health division, discussed her research on decontamination of working dogs exposed to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) contaminants or in hazardous material (HAZMAT) situations.

Her study of 28 working dogs looked at two methods of decontamination: The standard method with high volumes of water and a study method using low-water volume and 4% chlorhexidine gluconate scrub brushes. The latter method may be more employable in forward positions where water is at a premium.

Venn's study found that the low-water-volume was effective; however, both methods left residue in the dogs' coats despite significant scrubbing, especially in those dogs with longer fur.

Dr. Andrea Henderson, chief of rehabilitation at DOD Working Dog Veterinary Service , described the extreme physical and mental demands placed on working dogs and presented a system of physical and neurological conditioning that could help dogs work at peak efficiency in odor tracking and patrols.

"Neuromuscular training includes exercises that stimulate proprioception, plyometrics, agility, balance, dynamic stability, and core stability," she said.

Assessments and training must be "field-expedient and use readily available equipment, must be repeatable with personnel without significant training, and must assess parameters desirable for MWD performance: speed, cardiovascular endurance/olfactory endurance, power, and balance," she told the forum.

Cooper said the biggest impediment to MWD research efforts is "the lack of dedicated funding or program of record and coordinated research oversight." There is an initiative under way "to look at how to solve this problem for veterinary-related MWD research efforts," she said. "Events like this forum are critical to knowledge-sharing and enable DHA to better serve the health, readiness, and peak performance of MWDs."

You also may be interested in...

DODI 6200.03: Public Health Emergency Management within the Department of Defense

Policy

In accordance with DoD Directive (DoDD) 5124.02, this issuance: • Establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and provides direction to ensure mission assurance and readiness for public health emergencies caused by all-hazards incidents. • Defines a public health emergency within the DoD to include the occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition that poses a high probability of a significant number of deaths, serious or long-term disabilities, widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent, overwhelmed health care resources, or severe degradation of mission capabilities. • Provides DoD policy for management of public health emergencies, in accordance with DoD Instruction (DoDI) 6055.17, through integration with the DoD Emergency Management (EM) Program. • Outlines the public health emergency health powers, roles, and responsibilities of the military installation commander, including the authority for restriction of movement. • Details procedures for internal and external notifications of DoD-declared public health emergencies. • Clarifies the PHEM roles and responsibilities of the medical treatment facility (MTF) commander or director, the public health emergency officer (PHEO), and the medical emergency manager (MEM).

  • Identification #: N/A
  • Date: 11/25/2019
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Public Health

DHA-PI 3200.01: Research and Development (R&D) Enterprise Activity (EA)

Policy

This Defense Health Agency-Procedural Instruction (DHA-PI), based on the authority of References (a) and (b), and in accordance with the guidance of References (c) through (p): a. Establishes the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) procedures for the Deputy Assistant Director (DAD), R&D to manage and execute, on behalf of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (ASD(HA)), the portion of the Defense Health Program (DHP) Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) appropriation assigned to it (referred to as the “DHP Science and Technology (S&T) Program)”. The DHP S&T Program includes Budget Activities (BAs) 6.1-6.3 and 6.6. The ASD(HA) provides policy, direction, and guidance to inform planning, programming, budgeting, and execution of the DHP RDT&E appropriation in accordance with statute, regulation, and policy in Reference (a). The DAD-R&D, and Component Acquisition Executive (CAE) manage and execute DHP RDT&E Program funds aligned to them on behalf of the ASD(HA). The CAE is responsible for managing BAs 6.4, 6.5, and 6.7 funding, as well as Procurement and Operations and Maintenance funding required to support DHP-funded Acquisition Programs, regardless of acquisition activity. b. Supports the Director, DHA, in developing appropriate DHA management models to maximize efficiencies in the management and execution of DHP RDT&E-funded activities carried out by the Combatant Commands (CCMDs), Services, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), Defense Agencies, and other DoD Components, as applicable. c. Codifies processes to confirm DHP RDT&E funds are applied towards medical priorities and aligned to ASD(HA) policy, direction, and guidance to develop and deliver innovative medical products and solutions that increase the readiness of the DoD medical mission in accordance with Reference (a). d. Supports the following objectives of the R&D EA: (1) Increasing the quantity, quality, and pace of medical research through improved programmatic organization, processes, and oversight. (2) Ensuring DHP RDT&E funded efforts align to ASD(HA) published program guidance that provides resourcing guidance and translates national, departmental, and Service priorities into specific program objectives. (3) Verifying alignment of DHP RDT&E funds to medical priorities and to ASD(HA) policy, direction, and guidance to ensure the development and delivery of medical materiel and knowledge solutions. (4) Facilitating coordination with the CCMDs, Services, USU, Defense Agencies, and other DoD Components, as applicable, to ensure DHP RDT&E funded activities address joint medical capability gaps, and avoid unnecessary duplication.

Embedded Fragment Analyses

Policy

Clarification of the Requirement for Continuation of Semi-Annual Reporting of Results of Embedded Fragment Analyses

Influenza Surveillance Program

Policy

Sentinel Sites for the 2014-2015 Influenza Surveillance Program

Deployment Limiting Mental Disorders and Psychotrophic Medications

Policy

Policy memorandum about Deployment Limiting Mental Disorders and Psychotrophic Medications

DoD Directive 6400.04E: DoD Veterinary Public and Animal Health Services

Policy

This directive reissues DoD Directive (DoDD) 6400.4 (Reference (a)) to establish policy and assign responsibilities for veterinary public and animal health services in accordance with the authority in DoDD 5136.01 (Reference (b))

  • Identification #: DoD Directive 6400.04E
  • Date: 6/27/2013
  • Type: Directives
  • Topics: Veterinary Service

Guidance on the Establishment of a Human Cell, Tissue, and Cellular and Tissue Based Products Program

Policy

This memorandum requests the Services resource a Human Cell, Tissue, and Cellular and Tissue Based Products (HCT/Ps) Program that complies with regulatory standards for management and oversight of HCT/Ps, according to the best fit for their Service.

Access to Medical Services Who were Exposed to Rabies in Combat Theater

Policy

U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps COSC Policy Update

Policy

Mental Health Assessments for Members of the Armed Forces Deployed in Connection with a Contingency Operation

Policy

Clinical Policy for the Administration of the Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed

Policy

Pandemic Influenza: Clinical and Public Health Guidelines for the MHS

Policy

Based on pandemic influenza clinical guidelines published by the Department of Health and Human Services, this publication focuses on the specific threat from Novel influenza A (H1N1) virus, and includes patient evaluation and management, occupational and community health and specifics to the deployed setting.

  • Identification #: 09-012
  • Date: 6/3/2009
  • Type: Guidelines
  • Topics: Public Health

DoD Directive 6490.5 on Combat Stress Control Programs

Policy
Showing results 1 - 13 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.