By Maria Goodavage
Wherever the president goes, Secret Service dogs will have cleared the way and are always at the ready to protect and serve. But they’re Secret Service dogs, so most people don’t know anything about these courageous pups. Here are 10 fascinating facts I uncovered during my research for my forthcoming book Secret Service Dogs: The Heroes Who Protect the President of the United States (Dutton; publication date: October 25, 2016; hardcover, $28.00).
Secret Service dogs have been protecting presidents for 40 years (photo courtesy of the Reagan Library).
1. If a Secret Service explosives detection dog alerts near the White House, it can prevent the president from leaving or re-entering the White House, or interrupt presidential meetings.
The love between handler and dog is deep and like no other. (Photo courtesy of "Stew")
2. The bond between a Secret Service dog and handler runs incredibly deep. The dogs live with their handlers, and will go on to retire to their handlers. The bond, nothing short of love, is part of what makes these teams so strong and effective.
"Friendly Dogs" walk among the crowds outside the White House fence to sniff for explosives on people (Photo courtesy of Maria Goodavage).
3. Nearly every visitor to the White House is screened by a dog, but most never realize it.
Secret Service dogs are cool and they know it (photo of Rex courtesy of Jon M).
4. Every vehicle that enters the White House complex gets searched by a dog. The average Secret Service explosives detection canine searches 7,020 vehicles per year. That’s a lot of trunks and doors.
"Friendly dog" Roadee is a big character. Here he gives the "stink eye" to the photographer (photo courtesy Josh B).
5. These dogs help protect presidential candidates. Fortunately the dogs are nonpartisan, so they don’t care if it’s Trump or Clinton—they’ll do their job with equal gusto.
Kim K. and her explosives sniffer Astra at work at a conference where the president will be speaking (photo courtesy of Maria Goodavage).
6. Secret Service dogs have found explosive devices, but you will not have heard about these “finds.” The Secret Service has never revealed these because of OPSEC (operational security).
ERT canine handlers and dogs train in a variety of settings (photo courtesy of "Stew").
7. Emergency Response Team (ERT) dogs—the tactical dogs of the Secret Service—are so well trained that they can be leaping and in mid-air about to bite a “bad guy,” but not follow through if their handlers call them off – with just a single command.
US Secret Service dogs are the frequent fliers of the canine world (photo of Astra courtesy of Kim K.).
8. Secret Service dogs are among the top frequent fliers of the canine world, with more than 200 flights—many international—during the course of their careers. In presidential campaign years, Secret Service dogs chalk up an average of 36 flights.
Secret Service dogs and handlers train extremely hard together Photo courtesy of the US Secret Service).
9. These dogs, like most military dogs, are usually born and raised for a couple of years in European countries such as the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Most are Belgian Malinois, not German shepherds.
Protecting the president is serious business, and both dogs and handlers thrive on it (Photo courtesy of the US Secret Service).
10. Squirrels, which thrive in the White House area, have been tormenting Secret Service dogs for decades.