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‘War Dogs’ Play Crucial Role In American Military

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A dog trainer shows a dog a plastic mine after it was sniffed out from a hole as part of explosive dog training in Kabul, Afghanistan. (credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

A dog trainer shows a dog a plastic mine after it was sniffed out from a hole as part of explosive dog training in Kabul, Afghanistan. (credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

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SAN LUIS, Colo. (CBSDFW.COM) – War dogs are getting plenty of attention after the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

American military officials say the animals play a crucial role. “They’re considered a member of the team,” explained Close Quarter Battle K-9 School owner Alex Dunbar.

Dunbar trains German Shepherds from Slovakian blood for the military, police forces, and for personal protection. His training site is in southern Colorado, just south of the small town of San Luis. “It’s almost the same topography and elevation as Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said Dunbar, who is also an ex-Marine.

When SEAL Team 6 raided bin Laden’s compound they had a dog with them. Dunbar believes there’s a good chance bin Laden first came eye-to-eye with a canine.

Dunbar says the dogs are the first to go in to an unknown situation and may be looking for bombs, booby traps, or their target.

The dogs are trained to wear breathable body armor to protect them from attacks and shrapnel. They are also outfitted with a camera on their head which streams live video to soldiers in other positions.

110504 wardogs1 War Dogs Play Crucial Role In American Military

A U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. (credit: Dept. of Defense/Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force)

According to Dunbar, training for the animals, including tracking, intelligence work and drills to build strength and endurance, are conducted day and night.

A dog trained for the military needs to be able to swim, parachute out of a plane with a soldier, stay calm, and keep quiet.

One of Dunbar’s dogs had a titanium tooth, something he says gives the dog extra grip, and packs more of a punch. “It’s like being crushed by a train,” Dunbar said of the bite. “It’s just incredible how much pressure.”

Titanium teeth are sometimes inserted into canines by military or police forces for medical reasons. One expert who spoke with CBS 11 News said with all the bite work the dogs do, their teeth can wear down quickly or break. Damage to teeth can also affect their smell, which in some cases is just as important as their bite. The ability to sniff out an explosive or track a target can be invaluable.

Although the training is tough, Dunbar said his dogs probably eat better than most people. When they’re not on missions or training, they’re also very docile. While the enemy might see the dogs as machines of war, Dunbar sees them as man’s best friend.

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