17 Terms Only Military Working Dog Handlers Will Understand
All military working dog (MWD) handlers — no matter what branch of service they are in, go through the same basic handlers course and advanced dog training schools. As a result, all handlers in the military use key terms and phrases that every handler will understand. Here are the most common terms and what they mean.
All handlers will learn how to decoy — aka pretend to be the bad guy — and it's important they know how to "agitate" properly to provoke the dog to bite them. To do this they need to make noises and watching them scream and grunt for the first time can be hilarious. To make it simple, instructors tell beginning handlers to yell "HOT SAUCE!" very quickly over and over to provoke the dog.
Photo: Lance Cpl. Drew Tech/USMC
Inverted V (Lackland shuffle)
To conduct a proper detection search, all handlers are taught the "inverted V" method in which the dog detects low, then high, then low again. To do this, handlers must learn to walk backward and beginners move their feet so slow it's known as the "Lackland shuffle" in reference to the basic handler's course at Lackland Air Force Base.
Photo: US Navy
The toy used as a universal reward for all military working dogs is the kong. Handlers reward their dogs so much that they call themselves nothing but a kong dispenser.
Photo: Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz/USAF
MWD's are incredibly strong and athletic and so when the situation calls for a handler to maintain tight control of their dog, they will apply a "short safety." All handlers use a 6-foot leash and, with the dog on their left, they will hold the end of the leash in their right hand while using their left hand to grab the leash halfway down and wrap it once around their hand to ensure the dog stays close.
When an MWD is released to bite, handlers want them to get a full mouth bite, clench tight, and hold on until the handler gets there so the suspect can't get away. However, dogs that are not fully confident will not clench and hold and instead will bite, then release, and then bite a different area. MWDs that do this are known as typewriters.
Photo: Airman 1st Class Rusty Frank/USAF
This is when a military working dog runs and hits a decoy so hard that the decoy ends up dazed and confused on the ground, and handlers watching are more than likely laughing their butts off.
This refers to MWD's whose speed, strength, and bite are a cut above the rest.
Photo: Lance Cpl. Aaron Diamant/USMC
These are MWD's who are so well trained overall, especially in obedience, that they will rarely need a correction, if any.
Change of behavior
When an MWD is trained to detect specific odors it will show a "change of behavior" when it encounters it. Handlers must get to know their dog's change of behavior so they know their MWD is about to find something.
Reverse. (Not at source. Pinpoint.)
No handler wants to hear "reverse." When doing detection with their MWD, if a handler hears "reverse" from the instructor, they know they missed the training aid and now must do the embarrassing action of backtracking. Sometimes, a "not at source" or "pinpoint" is added when the instructor notices the dog is on the odor but hasn't found the training aid yet.
Most MWD's that defecate in their kennels will simply wait for their handler to clean it up. Unfortunately, some MWD's like to play with it and spread it every where they can. By the time the handler comes to clean it, the MWD has "painted" the kennel with feces.
Drop the purse
Most novice handlers unknowingly hold the leash up high while their dog is detecting making it look as though they are holding a purse. It is unnatural, there's no reason for it, and typically it's a sign of the handler not being relaxed. Instructors will tell them to "drop the purse" so they lower the leash and assume a more relaxed hold of it.
Photo: Seaman Abigail Rader/US Navy
Military working dogs are the world's most-highly trained dogs and must be controlled or in a controlled environment at all times for everyone's safety. When an MWD has escaped a controlled environment, handlers will yell "LOOSE DOG!" to alert everyone in the area.
Photo: Airman 1st Class Aaron Montoya/USAF
Catch my dog
When a handler asks another handler to decoy for their MWD.
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes/US Navy
Want peanut butter with that jam?!
MWD's build up a lot of momentum when they run after the decoy. At the moment of impact it's important the decoy is not so stiff to allow the dog's momentum carry through. If the decoy is too stiff, they can jam the dog which can potentially hurt them. The typical response from a handler whose dog was jammed is to ask the decoy if they want peanut butter.
Emotions run up and down leash
Dog teams form a bond so strong that a handler's attitude will affect the dog's attitude and vice versa. To keep the dog motivated, it's important the handler stay motivated.
Photo: Sergeant Rex
Trust your dog
This is ingrained in every handler's head. Dogs who become certified as military working dogs have gone through an extensive selection and training process. They have proven themselves to be the best at what they do. Yet, with the bond a dog team creates and all the training they have gone through, handlers will, at times, doubt their dogs abilities. It's important to always remember to trust your dog because if there's anyone who is wrong, it's the handler because the dog is always right.
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht/USAF
OR WATCH: The 9 Biggest Myths About Military Working Dogs