The bond between dog, handler

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen complete the mission every day. Planes are refueled, meals are prepared and computers are fixed. Without the proper tools, these everyday accomplishments would probably not happen. The tools of the trade are usually inanimate objects such as fuel trucks, spatulas and screwdrivers, but for military dog handlers, their tools have life, feelings and personality.

A handler and their dog share a special bond. The handler has one dog and one dog only.

"Benny is my dog," said Staff Sgt. Bryan Klein, 355th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. "One dog is assigned per handler as long as they're at this duty station. If we have a permanent change of station, we'll go to a different kennel and pick up a different dog."

The career of a working dog begins at a young age. Much like how trainees learn the basics through basic training, working dogs receive limited training initially.

"We get the dogs at a year and a half to two years of age," Klein said. "At that age, they're able to process what they're learning. They learn the basics at dog training school and when we get them, they have a very basic, elementary-like education. It's up to us as handlers to fine-tune them into what they become."

From then on, the relationship can begin and blossom. It's a slow process at first, the handler and dog have to get comfortable with each other first before the handler will begin to teach the dog commands.

"The dog trusting me and me having trust in the dog is of the utmost importance," Klein said. "Without that level of trust, we're no good. For the first three weeks with Benny, all I did was take him for walks and talk to him so he could get used to my voice."

After that, the dog was like his partner. Just like Starsky and Hutch or Riggs and Murtaugh, there's the crime fighting team of Klein and Benny.

"Until the kennel master separates us or we PCS, I'm with that dog," Klein said. "If I deploy or train, he's with me. Everything I do, I've learned to do with a dog attached to me."

Sergeant Klein has been a handler for two years and truly loves what he does. He says that since the day he joined the Air Force, this is what he always wanted to do.

"I get paid to come to work and play with a dog everyday, who else can say that? The training for Benny is just like he's playing. As a handler, it's pretty much like playing for us also. Everybody loves what they do. I have yet to meet a disgruntled handler. In my personal opinion, there is no better job in the Air Force."