Military working dogs have played an essential role in many missions, including the recent raid that led to the death of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
As the military considers new ways to utilize these canine units, they are also looking for innovative ways to protect them.
These dogs are not just used for tactical operations, however. They can also assist in patrol, detection and specialized search, according to the U.S. Army.
But one of the many dangers these brave dogs face is temporary and permanent hearing loss as result of their role.
Exposure to “high-decibel noise” either while training or during transport can affect the animals’ hearing, the Army said in a news release last week.
Now, thanks in no small part to an Army small business innovation program, new technology has been created to better protect them.
“Even a short helicopter flight can affect a dog’s hearing, resulting in impaired performance and inability to hear the handler’s commands, which can hinder the mission,” Dr. Stephen Lee, a senior scientist at the Army Research Office, said.
“This new technology protects the canine while on missions and can extend the dog’s working life.”
The technology is called Canine Auditory Protection System, or CAPS, and was created by Zeteo Tech, Inc., in partnership with Dr. Pete Scheifele, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who is also an animal audiology expert.
The technology is made from lightweight materials that absorb some of the damaging high-decibel noise. It’s also flexible so the headgear can conform to each individual dog’s head to ensure “proper sealing around the ear and maximum sound reduction,” the Army said.
The new technology is a much-needed upgrade from previous solutions.
“Until now hearing protection systems available were rigid, cumbersome and hard to put on the dog, with limited effectiveness in testing for the protection of canine hearing,” the Army said in its news release.
“The snood-style headgear, resembling a close-fitting hood, uniformly distributes the pressure required to hold the hearing protection in place, while avoiding challenges associated with straps. At a little more than an inch thick, the device’s low profile will not be a hindrance for dogs working in tight spaces.”
Researchers tested the CAPS technology not just with military working dogs, but also with law enforcement K-9 units.
“This new technology will extend canines ability to work in a wide range of environments in combination with the Soldier and autonomous systems that could greatly enhance situational awareness of the individual Soldier in the future and empower a broader use for military working dogs in operations,” Lee said.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.