December 14th, 2009
12:16 PM ET

Sniffing out explosives

The Mine Detection Agency in Afghanistan has been using dogs to clear mines and unexploded bombs since 1989 and operated even when the Taliban were in power. They currently have more than 300 dogs and operate all over Afghanistan. The agency breeds its own dogs and training starts from when the animals are born. Officials say mine dogs can clear fields more reliably and faster than any other mine clearance tool. CNN followed a day of training with the dogs. See more of the photos or watch the video

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Crosby

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    September 15, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
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  4. Carlos Kelly

    we bought a dog bed for our favorite puppy and she enjoyed it*~'

    August 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Luke Turner

    in our local pet shop there are lots of dog beds that are made in china. i don't know if they are of good quality.*,~

    May 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chester

    Nice email by Rob Evans. He must believe in Santa Claus if he thinks Time Magazine and Al Gore have a clue about how to defend our country. When the terrorists take out the CN Tower, Rob can give us his two cents. Until then, be thankful that George Bush had the stones to protect Canada for eight years.

    December 21, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew

    Great story, love to see these amazing animals along with their handlers getting the accolades they deserve. As for too skinny? Come on are you guys serious? As many of you have mentioned several times over they are working dogs and are just in great shape, maybe a little on the light side but most likely as a result of their environment. I have GSD myself who is a bit of an undersized male but he has never been more than 70lbs, in fact his normal healthy weight is about 64-68lbs. He's an athletic dog and participates in some canine sports like agility. As an owner of a GSD with some minor hip dysplasia these dogs are better off thin, they will have less issues with their joints later in life.

    December 21, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. christine stewart

    loved this story. Thank you cnn fo sharing. I also have 2 german shepherds. they look like the one in the first picture. Mine sleep on their big fluffy dog beds in winter in the house, and the a/c vents in summer. They have the thick coats and get very hot here in north carolina. However, they go inside and outside, and can't really adapt to one temp or other.. Those wonderful souls over there only know the climate over there and adapt with it. I am sure it is very hard on them, but as the handlers have been saying, they will give them food and water before themselves. They look thin compared to my dogs, but my dogs do not work for a living. It is best when it is hot, not to be overweight, Of course all of us animal lovers want to spoil them all, but the way things look, this it won't happen in their lifetimes.
    I am totally opposed to extening this war. What is the definition of stupid. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well other countries came before us, what makes us different. The smarter we get, the smarter they get. 8 years is way too long. If Iraq hadn't happened, blah, blah blah. Oh well. Lets all spoil our military personal and our pets next year. Our troops will need us more than ever. Adopt a

    December 21, 2009 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. ilovebeeswarzone

    i beilive in dogs helping our soldier for detecting those deadlys bombs i always had german sheffards all my life i got to love and appreciate their great qualitys, they surely are a great help,thank you nice pictures

    December 20, 2009 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. auntie em-aka mb

    i am a believer that all dogs would do better if they could daily perform activities realated to what they were bred for.not only do they need physical activity-when paired w/ mental stimulation you have a happy companion-works for people too-the mental/physical activity=a happier person

    December 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JBR

    Yes, these dogs are truely amazing. I trained, worked with, and deployed with Military Working Dogs for years. No worries...these dogs are by far not underfed. The military provides these dogs with the best quality food aavailable for dogs. You have to understand the jobs that these dogs do. It is unsafe and life threatening for the dog and personel to have an overweight working dog. The average home owned pet is overweight. The pictures shown where you can actually see the ribs is actually just the fur of the dog. These are called Sable Sheps and that is just how their coat looks.

    December 20, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike McGowan

    Prior to retirement I trained GSD for 15 years on a K-9 team for the Sheriff's Office. I can tell you that from what I saw in the video these are happy dogs, and not under fed. If only the animal lovers here would realize that a over weight dog is a dead dog long before he should be. We would not have to end there lives before there time. Also GSD have a inherited problem with there hips and being over weight only adds to the problem.

    December 19, 2009 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. Francesco

    Rats can do the same. Why not use them instead.???
    Don't expose dogs to dangers..

    December 18, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    I was in Iraq and frequently went on patrols with the Bomb Dogs and their handlers and I can ABSOLUTELY guarantee you that these are some of the most well taken care of dogs that I have ever seen! These dogs are worth their weight in gold to the soldiers over in Afganistan and in the sand box and I'm sure the troops reading these comments don't appreciate the people they are protecting telling them that they are not caring for their 'fellow soldiers'

    December 18, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ted

    Too bad we can't use politicians and whinning liberals, as all they can Sniff is the Money out of the working man and woman's pockets.

    December 18, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  16. GSD Owner

    I have owned GSD my whole life, and they truly are an incredible breed of dog. Such heros those dogs and their handlers are!

    As for the ribs, I have a 1 1/2 year old GSD rescued from a junk yard. He WAS malnourished and terribly underweight when found, and compared to our other senior citizen mutt (who would be considered "overweight by vet standards, though his food is carefully monitored,) he was skin and bones. We have since "fattened him up" with the careful monitoring by his vet. His ribs are still very prominent; he is incredibly lean and lanky, but in tip top shape per the vet – bright eyes, exuberant personality and exhaustingly high energy level. He looks much like the pups in this article, and based on my experience with riasing my own GSD pup from TRUE malnutrition, I'm glad to see that these dogs DO look well-cared for. They are obviously top performers, and dogs with malnutrition don't perform like these beautiful specimens!

    December 18, 2009 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  17. John

    I agree. We shouldn't be putting these dogs at risk. Let's replace them with whining liberals. I' sure the dogs won't argue about it.

    December 18, 2009 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  18. SJE

    There is no mention in the article on the genesis of this project. For those interested it began in 1989 by the California company named RONCO Consulting Corporation funded by the US Agency for International Development. Over a 5 year period RONCO not only trained 92 dogs and their Afghan handlers but built an entire NGO capable of operating on their own from admin and finance through comprehensive vet services to motor pool operations. When RONCO returned to Afghanistan in Jan. 2002 under a State Dept contract the MDA was the largest civilian employer in the country employing 3000 Afghans focused on the detecton and destruction of land mines and other explosive ordnance.

    RONCO went on to set up Mine Detection Dog Programs in over 30 countries under auspices of the State Dept from 1999 to 2006. All of those programs are in operation today.

    December 18, 2009 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  19. Ted

    Use bomb sniffing dogs to sniff out IEDs in both Afghan. and Iraq. It could save thousands of soldier's lives.
    The dogs are small and would not be noticed by enemy, after the dogs find the bomb or explosive, call them back and shell the located spot. The military is probably spending billions trying to invent a device. God did it 6000 years ago.
    Use the Dogs!

    December 17, 2009 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Scott D Harding, USAF, Ret. Vet.

    All military working dogs are fed a strict diet according to their function and environment. Also, there is ALWAYS a vet close by.

    December 17, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  21. robert foeller

    EXACTLY LOOKS LIKE MY POOCH, WOO HOOOOOO!!!! diesel boy wieghs about 110. loves to hunt, point , tree animals, and people. siesel loves boating, beaches and swiming all day with hundreds of children all day long. he sticks to me like GLUE. i can't do aanything with out tripping on him. this is my 2nd shepard, and there will be more. very intelligent, and likes busch lite!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 17, 2009 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Phantom

    I have been raising and training working line GSD's for years and for all of those who think these dogs are too skinny, well you obviously are expressing an opinion without any knowledge. The dogs chosen for this work are very high energy and have high metabolism rates. I currently have a 10 year old retired GSD who not only gets more then the recommended amount of food, but is supplemented with people food as a treat. Despite the lower amount of activity, I can still see his ribs and he is actually healthier as a result of being lean.

    The problem with today's domestic dogs is the overfeeding resulting in health issues. I just love when a dog owner says that my dog is not overweight and the reason you cannot feel the ribs is because of the muscle. I always tell them that there is no muscle between the ribs and skin. Stop overfeeding and take that dog for a walk everyday!!!

    December 17, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Jeff

    These dogs are not underfed. German Shepherds are supposed to be lean. These dogs are working breed German Shepherds and you should be able to see the ribs. The working breed Shepherds ribs are like a pro athletes abs. I have a German Shepherd and a Belgian Malinois and both are certified protection dogs. Shepherds without distinguished ribs are overweight.

    December 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Andrea

    These dogs deserve the honor & respect given to any soldier standing for our safety, rights and freedom. With my knowledge of canine health you should be able to palpate the ribs on a dog upon examination not be able to visibly see the ribs at a distance. The handlers certainly don't look under fed.

    December 16, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Kitty

    I owned one of these dogs as a child and I can assure you that their lives are being enriched by their training. They are working dogs, not too skinny but in top condition. Working dogs need tasks to be their best, they are bred to work and have a natural inclination to protect humans. To the person worried about the dogs being killed, would you rather it be an innocent child or a patriot fighting for his or her country? Perhaps we should just let the women and children already ravaged by war traverse these mine fields in their desperate search for food and shelter for their families.

    December 16, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  26. thisguy

    agree with the statements that the dogs are not underfed. it's been explained already so i won't explain it again. I own a GS and a Rott, both good genetic examples of their breed. i can tell you without doubt that my Rott is much more defensive and protective than my GS. The rott is more likely to drop to a defensive posture when challenged, and the GS is more likely to drop to an aversion posture and seek the least confrontational way out of a fight or flight situation.

    either dog is considered "working class" and each dogs personality is different. some rotts will turn and run where some GS will stand and fight. it has alot to do with genetics and equally as much handling.

    December 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Jimmey Seven

    Dr. Atlanta,

    Excellent comments. Over weight puppies are also usually destined to a life of poor health, much of it due to lack of exercise, improper diet (commercial dog food), and excessive weight on their joints.

    A skinny puppy is a healthy puppy. Same goes for working dogs.

    I raised and trained GSD's for police work and sport for 20 years.


    December 16, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  28. gsdbreeder

    these dogs are in 'working condition', and are not underfed. most americans are used to keeping their dogs too fat.... if you can't see your dog's last rib, he's too fat even for a pet's life.

    December 16, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  29. GreenEyes

    "Instead of dogs you can always use people."

    How about a bunch of U.S. politicians?

    December 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Rolf

    Instead of dogs you can always use people.

    December 16, 2009 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  31. Shannon

    It is appalling that these beautiful, intelligent dogs are trained to be maimed and killed. There must be a better way to clear mine fields that doesn't involve killing dogs.

    December 16, 2009 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  32. beavo040

    They are by no means underfed. These German Shepards are from particular bloodlines that define there body structure and overall appearance. Working dogs have a dramatically different appearance than those used as "show dogs", even though they are of the same breed. Their specific bloodlines are proven for their expertise, hence why the agency does all their own breeding. They are exercised properly and kept in tip-top physical condition, not like those of most household German Shepards that we typically see. APBT's have also been long used by agencies all over the globe as drug and explosives detection dogs.....would be nice to see a current story published about these breeds as well. Along with our soldiers, these amazing animals are serving our counrty and to that I commend. God bless!

    December 16, 2009 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  33. Dr. Paschal Brooks

    to the folks that are concerned about ribs: these dogs are true atheletes – trained for a purpose and in great shape! did you ever see a fat athelete or long distance runner? They are not underfed. Doc

    December 16, 2009 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  34. Jerry

    Regarding the ribs shown on some of the dogs, I can tell you that it is best to have the dogs on the lean side especially if they are food reward dogs. They are purposely kept in little hungry so that they work harder finding the explosives and be reqarded with small bits of food. Be asured that they are well maintained and treated. My own explosive detection dog was on only 75 lbs and with some ribs showing, but he was a seasoned top bomb sniffer.

    December 15, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Sarah Vance

    I am the owner of a retired German Shepard, Explosive Detector Dog that worked for 5 years in Iraq. These dogs eat food for sustinance, so they can continue to work. Food is not an indulgence for a working dog. I guarantee the dogs in these photos are NOT underfed and love every minute of their work!

    December 15, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Isaiah Young

    This will help control bombings that are taking place.

    December 15, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Atlanta

    Regarding the comments about the dogs being too skinny because "you can see their ribs," I would like to take this opportunity to discuss canine obesity. As a veterinarian, I am contstantly talking to my clients about their dogs having "too much padding," and explaining to them that seeing ribs is OK. We in American have just gotten so used to seeing fat pudgy dogs that we think dogs are starving if we can see their ribs.

    For working dogs, in particular, they need to be fit and muscular. They are athletes. It is harder on their health and their stamina if they are too heavy and fat. For these dogs in the hot environment of Afghanistan, carrying excess body fat makes it harder for them to cool off and regulate their body temperature.

    After seeing both the photos and the videos, these dogs appear to be healthy and happy. Not too skinny at all.

    Dr. Atlanta

    December 15, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  38. renee

    I too am an owener of a 11 month old GSD. In fact the first photo looks almost identical to mine.

    I am also familiar with military working dogs in a job related aspect...and I too say these dogs look malnourished.

    December 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  39. JD Boyd

    To Lucy and CF,

    Im not sure you really understand Afganistan and the correlation to the soldiers and dogs serving over there.

    I am 2 time Afghan veteran packing my kit for my third tour. I have also been a handler for over 20 years, For most, these dogs and handlers they work outside the main camps where food and water are at a premium at the best of time. Soldiers detailed to assist the dogs would give up their own food and water to ensure the well being of the dog, knowing these animals may very well save their lives.

    During the summer months, April to October, the temperature varies from 75 to 130 degrees. Most soldiers lose up to 20% of their own body weight while on tour because of these extreme conditions. It is a fact of life. Now, you are a 80lb four legged beast with a coat of fur, walking around in temperatures that Avg 100 degrees, you are going to lose weight. Be thankful the person taking care of you walking around in 60lbs of protective kit, would give up his last bottle of water for you.

    So, take a step back and try and understand the reality of the situation before you criticize.
    These dogs are well taking care of, I know mine are, they are our life line.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Robert

    As an owner of a GSD, it is nice to see GSD in a working capacity that they were designed for. As for the comments of the dogs being underfed by these bleeding heart types; these dogs maybe on the thin side but they aren't malnourished. 90% of the dogs I see here in the USA are overweight to obese...much like our human population.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  41. Kaelynn Jones

    Those dogs are very beautiful and smart too. I had one when i was 3 yrs old and she saved ne from drowning in the Nolachucky river. Good luck!!!

    December 15, 2009 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  42. Michael

    The dog in the first picture looks a lot like my dog. These dogs are very smart and protective.

    December 14, 2009 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Rob Evans

    Dear Sir/Madam:
    Although I am from Toronto, Canada, I was at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the 1960,s when there were all those demostrations against the Viet Nam War. Please Pres. Obama, do not get into another Viet Nam. At least you are being honest. Pres. Johnson sent "Advisors" with machine guns, pistols and grenades as "Advisors" and the War was never approved by Congress. Remember the Soviet Union had over 100,000 troops there for 8 long years and got tired of counting all the body bags. In the 1960,s there was a list of our body bags against the Viet Con to prove we were winning the war. Pres. Johnston lied to the people of the United States and got away with it. We were losing.
    With the additional 30,000 US troops there will still not be as many as the Soviets had over 8 years when they finally lost. We have been in there 8 years now and no sign of victory. I refuse to belive the US troops are better than the Soviets. Remember the Time article about a year ago that said, "the US Army runs on Prosac". Please read the book by former VP Al Gore "Against all Reason" when he states that an FBI agent told his superior twice suspicious things were happening in Florida with Arabs and air lessons and his boss said forget it. In other words 9/11 could have been prevented by the US. Politics and War are both sides of the same coin. Wait till we start sending troops into Pakistan and the body bags will increase.
    Please be careful Pres. Obama. Rob Evans, . Dec.14, 2009.

    December 14, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Lucy, Minneapolis, MN

    I'm concerned that these dogs aren't being fed well.

    Look at how skinny they are.

    You should not be able to see the ribs sticking out of a dog.


    Given that they are giving their lives to protect the humans with this type of service, the least we can do is feed them!


    December 14, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  45. CF

    These dogs look underfed for doing such an important job shouldn't they at least not have their ribs showing?

    December 14, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Elke, Germany

    Hi Fred!
    Really nice pictures. The German sheperds are very teachable, so it doesn´t wonder that we deploy them for so many jobs, as by searching for people by an earth quakes, as Police dogs, when people are buried by an avalanche, or to clear mines and so on.
    I reallly like them, especially the young ones, they are like little bears, are so clumbsy.
    The one I had, was something like a "family-member", a real funny one.
    Hope that these dogs will do a good job and that not many of them have to die.
    Best wishes

    December 14, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |