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Base kennel gets new obstacle course

Mesha, an 88th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, and her handler, Staff Sgt. Matthew Watkins, run through hurdles Aug. 18 on the new MWD obstacle course at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jack Gardner)

Mesha, an 88th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, and her handler, Staff Sgt. Matthew Watkins, run through hurdles Aug. 18 on the new MWD obstacle course at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jack Gardner)

Military Working Dog Mesha, who’s assigned to the 88th Security Forces Squadron, runs through a tunnel Aug. 18 alongside her handler, Staff Sgt. Matthew Watkins, on the new obstacle course at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jack Gardner)

Military Working Dog Mesha, who’s assigned to the 88th Security Forces Squadron, runs through a tunnel Aug. 18 alongside her handler, Staff Sgt. Matthew Watkins, on the new obstacle course at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jack Gardner)

Mesha, a military working dog with the 88th Security Forces Squadron, is led over stairs Aug. 18 by her handler, Staff Sgt. Matthew Watkins, on the new obstacle course at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jack Gardner)

Mesha, a military working dog with the 88th Security Forces Squadron, is led over stairs Aug. 18 by her handler, Staff Sgt. Matthew Watkins, on the new obstacle course at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jack Gardner)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Keeping up with training for military working dogs can be significant work and requires attention to detail. For the 88th Security Forces Squadron, keeping the K-9s sharp and properly trained presents a next-level challenge.

That challenge finally became easier this summer with a brand-new obstacle course for the kennel on Area A of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The course was first requested over two years ago when the old one fell into disrepair and could no longer be used, 88 SFS officials said. The project took $25,000 to complete.

Getting the new obstacle course allows the dogs and their handlers to get back to the form of training they are used to.

“We needed this,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Watkins, 88 SFS military working dog handler. “The last course had taken a beating from winds, storms and snow. Having this new course allows us to train the dogs the way we need to train them, in an environment that we have full control over.”

Before the course opened July 14, handlers were taking the dogs to different locations on base to try and simulate movements the K-9s might need to make in a real-world situation. That method wasn’t always a success, however.

“We love having the course because it allows us to train the dogs to do the movements they might need to do, all while staying close to them and making sure they understand that the handler is in charge,” Watkins said. “Going other places might not allow us that ability.”

The military working dogs spend most of their time getting the training they need to be at the top of their games. In order to do that, trainers must be able to teach them how to follow a command.

“A major part of having the control is being able to get the dog to understand that when an input is given by the handler, they need to obey it,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Adams, 88 SFS military working dog handler and trainer. “A handler who lets their dog go through the course alone isn’t a good handler; completing the course while being side by side with your dog lets them know you are in command.”

When the dogs have to go to other environments, they can become distracted and may not learn to obey orders the same way, Adams says. The new obstacle course allows them to get back to training in a controlled, quiet environment.