What a Marine Sniper Medal of Honor Winner Reminded me about Dogs
This blog first appeared on ColumbiaPatch.com on October 3, 2012.
by Skye Anderson, MS
“Scan your sector!” comes the command from the tower at the range, initiating a round of aiming at the targets quickly and accurately as they pop up at different distances and in different locations for different amounts of time (unless you shoot them down). . . .
Many military members laud the extensive education, training, and experience they receive in the military.
Contrary to popular perception, only a minority of a sniper’s job concerns shooting – the majority of his job is preparing to shoot, which includes planning the patrol or convoy or recon mission.
Meyer’s trainers emphasized attention to detail and situational awareness (SA), being aware of what is going on around you – ALL around you (even behind you), especially that which is out of the ordinary.
Classes in personal safety also emphasize situational awareness because preventing a confrontation is so much easier and safer than overcoming an attacker.
Scanning your sector, part of situational awareness, is accomplished almost automatically after a while. You learn to notice that which is out of place or seems out of place. In Afghanistan this could be the absence of children and women on a village street or it could be the presence of one person who seems to be loitering outside a NATO base.
When watching a dog gait, most of what the judge sees is superb but even a seemingly insignificant flaw will attract his attention and draw his eye like a magnet. This may be a slight limp or a tail movement that is not symmetrical in both directions. Dog show judges train themselves to look for these inconsistencies that are out-of-the-ordinary, just as soldiers and marines do.
As a canine massage practitioner, I was trained to observe a dog’s gait: I watch the dog exit the car and walk on the grass or driveway (preferred surface) to the appointment. When I notice something out of the ordinary, I know to devote attention to that spot during the session.
So, a marine sniper, a dog show judge and a canine massage practitioner, as well as veterinarians, look for what they expect not to see, for that gives them information about where to be cautious.
A marine sniper, a dog show judge, a canine massage practitioner, and a veterinarian have to learn this skill while Fido knows it instinctively.
Dogs see well in low light (at night, dawn and dusk), better than we do but dogs see colors less well (fewer cones than rods in their eyes). Dogs are also more attracted to movement: they may not see someone standing in the park 300 meters away UNTIL he moves. Dogs ‘scan their sector’ and focus in on movement – that which is sudden and out of the ordinary. We, on the other hand, see objects better that stand out (different color, e.g.) from the background and have to learn to scan our sector.
Dogs have a lot to teach us. What has your dog taught you lately?