‘Robot Dog’ Improves Special Operations’ Canine Medical Aid Practices

A multi-purpose canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, applies medical dressings to a realistic canine mannequin during MPC medical training at Stone Bay on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 1, 2017. During this training, MPC handlers practice applying canine medical aid on the new “robot dog” for the first time, which is in its final stages of testing and development. (Photo by Cpl. Bryann K. Whitley) The simulator, one of two prototypes being developed between U.S. Special Operations Command and industry partners, challenged handlers and medical staff with the wide range of scenarios available through its realistic reactions to injuries and treatments.

‘Robot Dog’ Mannequin

The development of this new “robot dog” came from Socom’s desire to improve the current medical training capabilities of canine handlers. Currently, the special operations forces community uses stuffed dogs, called critical-care jerry dogs, to train and refine medical techniques and procedures.

The static nature of the jerry dogs limits the instructors’ ability to evaluate dog handlers’ and medical team members’ capabilities to properly perform medical aid on canines. The service members also heavily rely on force veterinarians to provide scenarios and injury descriptions, which limit training opportunities to garrison training environments due to unavailability of veterinarians in a deployed environment.

“Our handlers are the first line of aid for their dogs when deployed, secondary to special amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen,” said a MARSOC East force veterinarian. “They are the first responders, so they need to know how to treat any injury that happens on the battlefield.”

All Joints Move Like a Real Dog’s

Socom’s desire to provide better training and increased capabilities to deploying teams kick-started the development of this new “robot dog.” The prototype is designed to look like a Belgian Malinois, one of the commonly used breeds in the military canine force. All of the joints on the mannequin move like a real dog’s, unlike a jerry dog where there is no movement. Limbs can also be changed out, to simulate different injuries depending on the training scenario’s objectives.

Some possible injuries include lacerations on paws and legs, as well as fractures. Supervising veterinarians can have injuries release simulated blood, change respiration or pulse rate and quality, as well as have the mannequin produce barking or whining noises, all of which improve the realism of the training.

Canine handlers must rely on their own knowledge and senses to determine what injuries are present. Handlers must go through a step-by-step process to determine how to best administer aid to their canines in order to stabilize them and get them to a veterinarian. A multi-purpose canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, checks for a pulse while administering medical care to a realistic canine mannequin during MPC medical training at Stone Bay on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 1, 2017. During this training, MPC handlers practice applying canine medical aid on the new “robot dog” for the first time, which is in its final stages of testing […]