Thursday, December 01, 2011

Canine PTSD

Today's New York Times has an interesting story about canine post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Five percent of the roughly 650 dogs deployed to combat areas by the U.S. military are thought to be affected by canine PTSD.

A year ago, a story about Gina, a four-year-old German shepherd with canine PTSD, was posted on a U.S. Air Force website. According to the story, Gina's behavior changed dramatically after she came close to an IED explosion while deployed in Southwest Asia. Back at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Gina was being retrained with no plans for redeployment to a combat zone for at least two years.

In the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Ladin, there was widespread speculation regarding the dog that accompanied Seal Team 6 into Abbottabad. While the dog's breed and precise function is still not known, experts speculate that the dog was present in order to sniff out explosives or persons hiding in the compound. The New York Times reported that dogs used by Special Forces may be decked out in high-tech gear:
Last year, the Seals bought four waterproof tactical vests for their dogs that featured infrared and night-vision cameras so that handlers--holding a three-inch monitor from as far as 1,000 yards away--could immediately see what the dogs were seeing. The vests, which come in coyote tan and camouflage, let handlers communicate with the dogs with a speaker, and the four together cost more than $86,000. Navy Seal teams have trained to parachute from great heights and deploy out of helicopters with dogs.

Military working dogs (MWDs), however, are not fitted with titanium teeth.

In July 2010, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would "recruit" 600 dogs a year for five years for use in sniffing out bombs, drugs, cash, and people, primarily at border crossings. The bid solicitation stated that DHS was looking for dogs that are "alert, active, outgoing, confident" and "extremely tolerant of people."