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Author Topic: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.  (Read 712 times)

holt

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War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« on: December 01, 2017, 12:16 PM »
WAR DOGS ON DEATH ROW Veteran dogs which saved thousands of lives while on duty in Afghanistan both face being put down — because Top Brass claim they can’t be re-homed

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5039355/hero-army-dogs-face-being-put-down/
Both face lethal injections after chiefs ruled them unsafe for new homes. One angry handler said as a rescue campaign began: “We’ll do anything to save them.”

A distraught handler has slammed the decision to destroy Army dogs Kevin and Dazz — saying: “This is such a cruel way to treat these animals that have given us so much.”

The two Belgian Shepherds, retired after dozens of life-saving missions as specially-trained search dogs in Afghanistan, are due to be put down next week after chiefs ruled they can’t be re-homed.

Former soldiers and handlers who worked with the pair — and with an ex-police hound named Driver which is also doomed to die — have written to the commanding officer at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray, Leics.

More Belgian Shepherd pix at duckduckgo:
https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Belgian+Shepherd&t=seamonkey&iax=images&ia=images
"This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far." (cf. 'Argo'.)

mouser

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2017, 01:11 PM »
That's crazy -- surely if there are people who want to adopt them they should let them be adopted!

IainB

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2017, 04:09 AM »
(Wipes tears from eyes.)
I'd recommend the avoidance of unnecessary/excessive sentimentality, and the avoidance of making snap judgement about the fate of these particular dogs. It is possible (though maybe hard to accept, given one's possibly natural intuition to the contrary) that the officials making these judgements might have been given very good advice and thus might actually know what they are about.

One does not know the reality of their situation - and particularly the mental state regarding these dogs.

When things tug at our heartstrings, rationality tends to bail out the window.
Furthermore, and sadly, most people - including many people who work with animals and who love them, (e.g., police dog-handlers) - seem to have little real understanding of the special psychology of dogs.

From experience: My main job as a lad at school was to take care of the animals at home - that included the horses, a dog kennels and a cattery. As well as immersing myself in science (biology, chemistry, physics) at school and as a hobby, I had several happy years taking care of and immersing myself in the study of these animals and their psychology - and dogs in particular I found to be very interesting. Being intelligent creatures, for eons dogs have apparently shown themselves to be easily trained and able to bond with and become amazingly useful (symbiotic) friends of Man.
(By the way, I became a pretty competent horse bareback-rider and dog-handler as a result of my tasks.)

One thing about dogs though, is that they evolved and survived as - and will remain - pack animals. In the natural state, they evolved to live in packs for survival. When they live with a human family, domesticated dogs seem most content to consider themselves as being part of the human pack, with their survival dependent on the survival of the pack (as in nature). When they are properly integrated, they will typically defend other (human) pack members to the death. Keeping a dog, but not allowing it full integration with the family as a pack, is common and both inhumane and cruel to the dog.

In a dog's human "packs", if the adult humans do not establish and assert their position as pack dominants (prime bitch and Alpha male), then the relative pecking order becomes confused/scrambled in the dog's perception, and all sorts of unfortunate behaviours/events can ensue - e.g., including otherwise apparently stable family dogs killing one or more of (usually) the weaker human pack members (older people or children).

One dog that we gave away was a white male from a litter of pups crossed with a Welsh sheepdog (so they were quite smart mongrels). It was a lively little pup, probably the dominant one in that particular litter.
However, it was returned to us a couple of years later, by which time, having been fed a diet including a lot of raw meat, it had matured to a size considerably larger than any of its siblings. It had grown up with its owner-family, but had become disobedient and surly, and so they had it police-trained, whereupon it became obedient but remained surly, and the family didn't entirely trust it around the children. Rather than put it down, they asked us if we would like to take it back. We did. I maintain that the family - like many dog-owners - probably did not understand the need to (or how to) assist the dog to integrate with the family as a pack member, and that this confused and damaged the dog's perception of its pack-role.

I immediately recognised that this dog - named "Suki", and which I was now obliged to look after - was not "safe". Such dogs are rather like a loaded gun where one is never quite sure whether the safety is ON.Usually relatively confident, even I was careful (frightened) around it. Surly, it treated me with disdain, and, at 11 years old, I understood that, in a fight, it would be bigger than me and could overpower me, and that it knew it (male dogs respect physical dominance). I was very kind to it - dogs usually respond best to kindness and affection - but, nothing seemed to improve its surly demeanour. So we kept it on its own, apart from the other dogs - it was aggressive, dominant and unpredictable, and showed itself willing to kill some of the other males (I still bear some scars and a damaged finger-joint from separating the fighting animals). That in itself (isolation) I understood was a form of torture for the dog, but we did not wish to torture it.

My method was that I hoped to force a bond with it by ensuring that the only live creature that it had any real interaction with was me - its kindly jailer. I fed it, exercised it, combed its fur, cleaned out its kennel, stroked it and told it that it was a "good dog Suki", and put it back into its kennel at night, but it remained indifferent towards me, obedient, but surly.

One night exercising, I told it to "Come here" so that I could walk it back to its kennel. It came to me, cocked its leg and disdainfully urinated on my leg (marking territory) - something it had never done before - and disdainfully moved away from me, ignoring my shouting at it to "Come here!". I was infuriated at being treated this way by the dog. Realising that it was a critical moment in our relationship, I had to quickly figure out how to "up" my dominance. Most dog-owners do this by physically beating or whipping their dogs, but this is often both cruel and unnecessary, as
dogs usually respond best to kindness and affection. The only time I would have beaten our dogs would have been to inhibit them from sheep-worrying behaviours, which in the UK is very serious as the law may order that the offending dog be put down.

But that night with Suki I happened to have in my hand a couple of bamboo spears (I was interested in spear and javelin-throwing and practiced whilst exercising the dogs, who found it fun). Being a well-practiced shot, I threw the spear so that it landed right in front of Suki as he walked away, whereupon I could almost see the cogs operating in his head: He stopped dead, turned  and stared at me - "Big stick, thrown by dominant male, could have hurt me" - or something. Fear/respect.
He obediently came to me. I stroked his head and ears and told him he was a "Good dog Suki".

From that point on, Suki progressively transformed. He waited to follow my lead/permission in all things. He accepted me as the dominant male (I was living alone with my mother), though I was only 11 or so, and he gratefully received any and all fondling/stroking (remember, dogs usually respond best to kindness and affection) that I might bestow upon him - even coming to me asking to be stroked and have his ears tickled. In short, he worshipped me. Mission accomplished!

I first became an uncle at age 10, with a beautiful niece (whom I adored) from my eldest sister - who then proceeded to have 2 more girls in quick succession. The 3 girls would come and stay with us, and I was very concerned to have Suki not be a threat to them, so I ensured that he saw them as "my" pack pups, so they became important to him to protect. So I conditioned him, and, at the same time, Suki's surly resistance had crumbled before my genuine loving affection for him (I love and respect most animals, but Suki was kinda "my child").

Those girls could crawl about Suki and stroke him, pull his fur, poke him, accidentally hurt him, and yet he would remain submissive and never once evinced growling anger or upset at being hurt, poked or prodded. He was safe.
Once I had established that he was safe, and after continued observation (not supervision) to make sure, I was eventually able to relax, knowing that the children were at least as safe with Suki as they would have been with me or any other family member. This was when I was about 15 or so.

Statistics of dogs-killing-family-members demonstrate pretty conclusively that it will happen (otherwise there would be no such statistics) and that police/military-trained dogs are no exception, but in fact more likely. They are typically the loaded guns.

Only idiots - or possibly misinformed bureaucrats - would advocate leaving loaded guns lying around in a family's living-room.

For example: I read a depressing tale a few years back about a police dog-handler in the UK, whose two Alsatian police-dogs dogs had, inexplicably, savaged and killed his 5-year old daughter, and then ripped apart her body.
Afterwards, he said something like:
"I would have staked my life on those dogs being safe." (or words to that effect).
- but of course the idiot didn't stake his own life on it, he staked the life of his daughter.

For survival's sake, no-one - and especially children and old people in a family - needs that kind of Alpha male in the family.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 05:47 AM by IainB »

Shades

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2017, 08:01 AM »
Is it also not the case that dogs are being trained using an uncommonly spoken language for the areas where they are stationed and most likely to be deployed? That way the dog won't misinterpret any verbal instruction given to it by it's handler or in earshot of the dog. Coherent thinking is often needed when you are not speaking your native language and not everyone is capable of that in a (panic) situation when a dog is behaving badly (or alpha, as illustrated by Iainb).

At the office, there are always 3 dogs roaming the terrain, usually 1 male and 2 females. Dogs consider me as a friend as I start petting them and I have a somewhat similar experience as Iainb, as a kid helping out with my uncle, who owned and operated a dog kennel and had loads of other animals too. Unfortunately, I have seen then, how badly dogs can be treated by other people and that the police had to call my uncle to help them out getting rid of the dog in an unsafe situation. It always impressed me that all animals, vicious or not, considered my uncle to be the alpha at first glance. Also, that kennel also had the facilities to terminate and dispose animals (to government standards), which were legally declared to be unsafe for society and that part of the business my uncle taught me too.

Back to the office: a year or 2 ago, the male was well liked (my absolute friend absolutely) but also getting older. So a new young male was introduced. For some reason, that young male and I do not hit it off. Of course the battle for dominance ended up badly for the older male, the young male started to rip open his throat. We we're still able to separate them and the old dog lived on for 3 months more, succumbing to that injury.

The young male was only showing enthusiasm to see me/being petted by me when the two females were around me begging/playing for my attention. But separately the male did not show any enthusiasm. It showed the same behavior with the owners family and at some point in time they got rid of him. I offered to put him up in my rented property, to see if things would improve. It would be alone for most of the day and  in the evenings I would play with him. The dog appeared to be happy the first 2 days of this arrangement, but everything was back to same ol', same ol' after that period. Even showed off the dog to a dog trainer who mainly works with Rottweilers. There the dog lasted only one day, that guy brought him to the vet for a lethal injection.

Some dogs really cannot be helped or trusted, no matter how much love and effort you put into them. Maybe adoption could have been an option, only if the service period from both the dog and their handler would end at the same time and the handler had enough space/time/love for that dog. How sad it may be, the harsh reality is that these dogs earned "to be put out to pasture", but that they are really not equipped for that. The pack is everything and the pack requires an alpha. And a dog with a scrambled brain/psyche, becomes a wild dog and people like my uncle have to step in to properly dispose of them. Not the nicest way to spent the last weeks in your life as a dog.

Then it is seems more humane to me terminating their service in a more loving environment. And in case there is off-spring, love them by giving that litter all the opportunity they can handle. 

 

tomos

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2017, 11:13 AM »
@IainB & Shades, much of what you write reminds me of Cesar Millan (who is unfortunately also called 'The Dog Whisperer') and his approach. This video a bit long, but explains his ideas:

Tom

IainB

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2017, 01:37 PM »
@Shades: Yes, using the commands that the dog is accustomed to (i.e., in the same language and with the same inflection), is obviously useful, but dogs can be re-trained to respond to a different command-word - e.g., "Kommen!" for "Come!" and eventually learn to demonstrate the correct response for that. Some of our dogs came to us only knowing commands in Welsh, or only knew particular whistles (those would usually be sheep-herding dogs). We usually never knew what "vocabulary" they were used to when they came to us - like Suki, for example, who initially didn't seem to understand us - which could have been mistaken for disobedience, if one did not understand dogs.

You are arguably spot-on where you say:
Some dogs really cannot be helped or trusted, no matter how much love and effort you put into them. Maybe adoption could have been an option, only if the service period from both the dog and their handler would end at the same time and the handler had enough space/time/love for that dog. How sad it may be, the harsh reality is that these dogs earned "to be put out to pasture", but that they are really not equipped for that. The pack is everything and the pack requires an alpha. And a dog with a scrambled brain/psyche, becomes a wild dog and people like my uncle have to step in to properly dispose of them. Not the nicest way to spent the last weeks in your life as a dog.

It's a sad reality that it would be impossible to habituate some of these "war veteran" or other working dogs that have been trained and conditioned and used for attack/violence - because that was what they were suitable for and indeed were originally bred for (e.g., especially German Shepherds/Alsatians).
Expecting that their scrambled heads could somehow magically re-learn their behaviours and enable them to become cute domestic pets would be ignorant/infantile.

They are not nice, cute domesticated pets, and have been trained to develop their natural viciousness/ferocity and aggressiveness. To put them up for adoption would be highly irresponsible and risky. It would be like asking an unsuspecting adopting owner to unwittingly leave the proverbial loaded gun lying around their property. Only a matter of time before somebody inadvertently pulls the trigger, and then someone is likely to get mauled or killed in very short order.

Some other dog breeds though could be regarded as being naturally "more safe". For example, though I've seen a few that were snappy little critters and might give one a vicious nip, I've never come across an "attack poodle". Similarly, you'd be unlikely to successfully train a Springer spaniel to become an attack dog - they make brilliant chasers/retrievers and alarm dogs, but usually don't have an aggressive bone in their bodies and are big cowards with a loud bark. The most danger they are likely to present is as an occupational hazard - e.g., as an excessively friendly attack slobberhound, or cause you to dislocate the shoulder of your throwing arm from overuse in ball-throwing. We did have a Springer that embarrassed us mightily. It killed a bunch of free-range chickens that it saw had got out of their coop in the property next door one day. The dog was apparently having the time of its life, silently chasing the birds, catching each one in its mouth and giving it the killing shake (Springers are very soft-mouthed and don't usually bite into the prey), then dropping it and going on to the next one. Some of its victims survived. Fortunately, I interrupted the party when I called/whistled the dog, wondering where it had got to as I couldn't see it anywhere. This particular dog was not prone to straying into neighbouring properties and had never been trained for hunting - it was only doing what chasers/retrievers (hunting dogs) do instinctively when they see a bird loose on the ground. The people next door appreciated that fact and ensured their chickens didn't get out again (this was in a rural area).
« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 02:00 PM by IainB »

IainB

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2017, 12:23 AM »
@tomos: Thanks for the Cesar Millan video link. Interesting. He certainly seems to know his stuff. He doesn't miss a trick, and I learned a couple of good tips there too - the "Tsk" sound at the same time as he makes a "biting" movement with his right hand, towards a dog's neck. Never seen a high-energy unstable dog (like the Alsatian in the video) go into calm submission so quickly. Brilliant applied dog psychology. Some of that stuff - such as when to make or avoid deliberate eye-contact, posture and demeanour (communication of status and "energy") is applicable to humans and primates generally, as well as dogs and horses. You have to get dominance and respect established early on, if you want to control a pack or most animals, and, with a dog pack, if you don't successfully communicate that you're the dominant Alpha male (pack leader), then the dominant dogs will disrespect you (like Suki urinating on my leg).

Millan does advocate caution using the biting motion with a high-energy unstable dog, especially the Alsatian. It would be interesting to know whether he might consider it feasible to rehabilitate the problematic war dog veterans.
The end of one video shows Millan walking down a dusty road in the countryside somewhere, with the 20-or-so pack of dogs calmly following behind him. That was very impressive. Leading a pack calmly like that was one of the hardest things I had to learn to do, and I would usually only do it with much smaller packs (5 or so), but I managed to do it safely whilst walking across unfenced territory where there were grazing sheep/lambs.

I always enjoyed reading and learning from dog-training books and from watching TV/videos about dog training. You can also see incredible feats of dog-handling and control put into practice if you study dog obstacle course competitions and sheepdog trials - the latter especially sometimes leave me amazed at the level of symbiosis and synchronisation that can be achieved between a working dog and its handler rounding up a small group of sheep. Synergy.

PS: If you have the time, you might find it interesting to search up some stuff by this lady:
Obituary: Barbara Woodhouse, Dog Trainer Who Became TV Celebrity, at 78
AP, Published: July 10, 1988
Copied from: Barbara Woodhouse, Dog Trainer Who Became TV Celebrity, at 78 - NYTimes.com - <http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/10/obituaries/barbara-woodhouse-dog-trainer-who-became-tv-celebrity-at-78.html>
« Last Edit: December 04, 2017, 12:35 AM by IainB »

holt

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2017, 10:34 PM »
Thank you mouser, IainB, Shades, and tomos for your replies. I had also tried to imagine what psychological trauma might still be harbored deep in the 'war dogs' psyches. But the picture of what was presumed to be a war dog with his tough but slender female handler, and especially when coupled with supportive statements of actual handlers, caused me to at least give them a fair and impartial report. But your input is invaluable and I agree with you wholeheartedly.
My wife and I used to go past a certain house on our daily walks. Beside the house was a vacant yard with a few large bushes but no fence. There in the yard was a dog house and a massive, surly dog on a chain to a steel anchor spike. The chain allowed the dog to come to about five feet from the concrete curb. Every time we would walk past, the dog would bark at us and lunge his chain as he charged us and was brought up short.
I bought some doggie treats and began tossing him one each time we went past. Over the next few days, the dog's demeanor was transformed from anger and surliness to something far more civilized and noble. One day I missed my shot and the treat landed just beyond the dog's reach.
I can only conjecture what happened next. The unseen owner must have seen the treat, and given the poor dog a most wretched verbal threatening and chewing out "...never to go near those treats again!"
From then on, that big huge dog just lay there, pretending not to notice us, with the most awful look of defeat in his eyes. Within a few days -or was it weeks; it's been ten years ago by now- the dog disappeared. Then after a few weeks or months, an energetic little yapper appeared to take its place, the kind of nervous high-strung little animal that usually fails to respond favorably to doggie treats.
With my wife's willing agreement, we altered our route through the neighborhood to avoid walking past that house.
"This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far." (cf. 'Argo'.)

Deozaan

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2017, 10:13 AM »
The recent movie, Megan Leavey (2017), features a similar situation with regard to a "war dog" facing retirement.

Based on the true life story of a young Marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq.

IainB

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Re: War Dogs – This brought tears to my eyes.
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2017, 09:33 AM »
Statistics of dogs-killing-family-members demonstrate pretty conclusively that it will happen (otherwise there would be no such statistics) and that police/military-trained dogs are no exception, but in fact more likely. They are typically the loaded guns.

Such killings typically happen when the dog-handler is not around. It is thought that the dogs involved initially have become confused and, for some reason, decided the victim is a valid target that needs to be attacked. After that, their killing instinct seems to take over.

Quite coincidentally. here is a Liveleak vid that I saw in my BazQux feed-reader today:
Bodycam Video Shows Police Dog Attack innocent Woman

Fortunately, the police-dog's handler in the video was around to stop it turning into anything worse than a severe mauling of the arm and hospitalisation for the distraught victim, who asks: "Oh, what did I do to him?", to which the response was "Nothing. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

What was interesting in that is that the command to let go of and stop biting the woman's arm (sounded like "Out" repeated calmly several times) was not initially responded to by the dog. I would usually call that "bad training", because the handler of such a dog would need the dog to obey an instruction immediately.
If I lived in a neighborhood where police dogs and their dog handlers worked and the dogs could not be kept under control, then I would not feel safe for myself or my children.
In the UK, I think it may still be the case that any dog that attacks and bites people, without cause, is rapidly transferred to that great kennels in the sky. Owners of fierce/fighting dog breeds (e.g., including pit-bull terriers) also need to have a special dog licence and to keep their dogs fenced in, and kept muzzled and under control on a leash when out. They are not cute pets.