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From Germany to Buckley, new dog on the block adjusting well

Staff Sgt. Robert Aikins, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his partner Jeja, 460th SFS military working dog, play in front of the kennels on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Jeja is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois hailing from Germany and is the newest member of the 460th SFS MWD team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross/Released)

Staff Sgt. Robert Aikins, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his partner Jeja, 460th SFS military working dog, play in front of the kennels on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Jeja is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois hailing from Germany and is the newest member of the 460th SFS MWD team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross/Released)

Jeja, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, sits in front of a patrol car at the 460th SFS military working dog kennels on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Jeja is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois hailing from Germany and is the newest member of the 460th SFS MWD team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross/Released)

Jeja, 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, sits in front of a patrol car at the 460th SFS military working dog kennels on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Jeja is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois hailing from Germany and is the newest member of the 460th SFS MWD team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Jeja, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois hailing from Germany, is the newest addition to the 460th Security Forces Squadron military working dog kennels.

Before joining the rest of her fellow service dogs, Jeja completed a roughly 90-day training program instructed by members of the 341st Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

According to the 341st TS website, they train dogs used in patrol, drug and explosive detection, and specialized mission functions for the Department of Defense and other government agencies.

After arriving at Buckley, it's now up to Jeja's partner, Staff Sgt. Robert Aikins, 460th SFS MWD handler, to advance her training and become certified as an operational team. This process generally takes about 60 days, and they must become certified on a number of tasks.

Tasks include identifying nine different types of scents, and Aikins has to be able to identify Jeja's behavior when she makes these finds.

Aikins and Jeja must also certify on the six aspects of patrol. First, Aikins has to ensure Jeja won't bite a suspect when he and the suspect are in conversation. Next, is the release and hold; Jeja must be able to attack a suspect at Aikins' command and needs to hold on even though she may be kicked, hit or swung around. Jeja then must obey the off call, which is used to release her bite.

The second half of the patrol aspect is the standoff. This happens when Aikins sees a potential threat such as a busy street the suspect runs across. Aikins will call out to the dog to stop until he can come and evaluate the danger, and the team will then proceed. The last two aspects of patrol are search and escort. Jeja can't bite the suspects while Aikins searches and escorts them back to the patrol car.

So far, Aikins said Jeja has been progressing well. One of the minor things for her to overcome has been the altitude adjustment.

Although having a new dog can be challenging at times because of her puppy-at-heart mentality, Aikins said it definitely has its upside.

"The biggest perk for getting a green dog, which is what they call them when no handlers have had them before other than instructors at (dog training school is) you can kind of train it how you want to train it as long as you're within regulations and not harming yourself or the dog during training," Aikins said.

He said other dogs that have had previous trainers can sometimes be a challenge to work with, as they become set in their ways and handlers really have to work harder with them.
Regardless if it's a new dog or one that's been around for a while, Aikins said it's extremely important to stay patient and positive.

"They say it travels down leash, so if I come in during the day and I'm in a bad mood, then that's going to make the dog be in a bad mood," Aikins said. "They're just like us; somedays she doesn't feel like working."

Those are the days Aikins said you have to push them, so they know who the alpha is in the partnership.

The patience and pushing will pay off, as Aikins and JeJa are already halfway through her 60-day training cycle. Once Aikins feels his team is ready, the 460th SFS MWD kennel master will evaluate the team and put in their certification to become operational. The 460th Space Wing commander is the final person to sign off on their certification.
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