Military working dogs face just as much danger downrange as their human handlers.
A new extra-realistic robotic dog is helping troops with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command make sure they can save their four-legged battle buddies' lives when they are wounded or injured.
According to officials with MARSOC, which last held training sessions with the robot dog prototypes, the dog technology is under development by U.S. Special Operations Command and industry.
The dogs, which look like Belgian Malinois, can move realistically and have limbs swapped out to simulate a wide variety of injuries.
Previously, operators trained with "Critical Care Jerry" dogs, stuffed mannequins used by veterinarian emergency rooms to practice a variety of emergency medical procedures. While these dogs enable troops to practice intubation, splinting and resuscitation, their limited realism and inability to move presented a challenge for medical aid training.
Fielding of the new robot dog is expected to happen soon. According to a news release, production will begin in March, with fielding to the military canine force to begin as early as April.
Working dogs in U.S. special operations fill a wide range of roles and are an elite group, with a selection process almost as rigorous as that of their handlers.
The dogs are used to hunt down explosives, sniff out drugs and enemy fighters, and defend or attack when necessary. They go through rigorous training alongside their human partners and are conditioned to stay calm while performing tandem jumps out of airplanes and while in the noise and chaos of a firefight.
According to the MARSOC release, the robots will enable trainees to practice treating even some of the most severe of injuries, such as evisceration. The dog prototypes react when CPR is administered and show vital readings that stabilize when their injuries are treated properly.
"[Having this capability during training] helps you not second-guess yourself when deployed," a MARSOC multi-purpose canine handler, who was not publicly identified, said in a statement.
"You're able to realize that you've used these steps before in training, and they worked in training, so they will work when needed. As long as you continue with the steps and do everything properly, you'll be successful and save your dog," the handler said.