The military working dog that was injured tracking down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a tunnel beneath his compound in Syria in a photo provided by the White House via the Twitter account of President Donald Trump. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, White House

Canadian special forces quietly building up their dog units

Canine units mainly sniff out threats such as bombs or help track and apprehend enemy fighters

The only publicly acknowledged hero of the U.S. military operation that took down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has become an internet sensation after suffering injuries in the underground blast that killed the shadowy Islamic State leader.

It’s a military dog, just one of many used by U.S. forces for patrols, guard duty, intimidation and sniffing out threats.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted out a picture of a dog receiving a medal captioned “AMERICAN HERO!” and later referenced that the actual dog in the raid, named Conan, will be leaving the Middle East next week and heading to the White House.

Canada’s special forces, too, have been quietly building up their canine units in recent years. They just they don’t like to talk about it.

Canada, like many countries, has a long history of using dogs, horses and even carrier pigeons in war. That includes the use of sniffer dogs in Afghanistan to find improvised explosive devices, which were responsible for the majority of Canadian deaths during the decade-long mission.

As integral as those dogs were considered to the Canadian war effort in Afghanistan, they were owned and handled by contractors hired by the military specifically for the task — contracts that expired when the mission ended.

The military’s experience with dogs wasn’t over, however, said Capt. Jamie Donovan of Canadian Special Forces Command.

“Canadian special forces gleaned much from allies in Afghanistan in the employment of canines in support of special-operations forces, and were themselves using canines on operations by the end of that mission,” Donovan said in an email this week.

“Following Afghanistan and since 2012, we’ve aimed to further develop and sustain a canine capability within the command.”

Donovan wouldn’t reveal much, but did say the dogs are divided into two groups: one to sniff out threats such as bombs and one to conduct patrols with special forces soldiers and track and apprehend enemy fighters.

Some clues can also be found in a public notice in which the Department of National Defence revealed it was looking to buy a number of dogs.

“DND has a requirement for canines that demonstrate the characteristics and capabilities to successfully complete a demanding training program followed by working in a challenging operational environment,” reads the notice, published in December 2018.

In particular, the Forces were in search of untrained Belgian malinois, German shepherds and Dutch shepherds between the ages of 10 months and three years.

At the same time, the selected dogs needed to show a “sound temperament and a bold and confident attitude with no signs of either shyness or over-aggression,” the ability to work with people and learn, a strong drive to hunt and retrieve and an “implicit ability” to fight if required.

They were also forbidden from showing any fear of water, any propensity to bite their handler during stressful moments, and needed to “show no fear and not be distracted by unsure footing, tight and/or dark enclosed spaces, moving vehicles and loud noises including gunfire.”

KEEP READING: Trump says Islamic State leader dead after U.S. raid in Syria

Lest any dog lovers out there worry the Canadian military has been secretly sending dogs into battle without the proper equipment, public records show the government has bought tens of thousands of dollars worth of protective vests for its canine units over the past few years.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

School District 8 releases back-to-school plan

Here’s what families need to know

Cavalcade is on! L.V. Rogers grads to parade through city next month

The annual event has been given the green light to run June 13

Young farmers find a home through land-matching program

Young Agrarians links would-be farmers with landowners who have land to spare

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read