Inside the World of a Military Dog Contractor

What does it take to get a dog ready for Army life?

Army dog on a leash
The process of getting a dog ready for military life is more complex than you might think.
The US Army
By Tobias Carroll / February 16, 2020 2:31 pm

In the last few months, military dogs have been in the news in a big way. But besides the general likability of dogs, there’s another question that can arise when seeing footage of dogs accompanying troops in different situations. Namely: how exactly do the dogs get there? Is there a dog boot camp, with the canine equivalent of R. Lee Ermey (literally) barking out orders?

Now, a new article at GEN from Jake Bittle sheds some light on how dogs get ready for the military. And — interestingly enough — it’s a fairly profitable endeavor for those who do it well. At the center of Bittle’s article is a Louisiana man named James Lyle with a normal-sounding life and an unexpected occupation: “[Lyle] has earned around $3.2 million over the last decade selling more than a thousand combat dogs to the U.S. military and the Department of Homeland Security.”

According to the article, Lyle’s dogs represent 5% to 20% of the dogs purchased each year by these agencies. It also notes that he brings a lot of experience to his work: he began training dogs at the age of 15, and later worked in the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office for the better part of a decade.

Much of Lyle’s business, Bittle writes, involves training dogs that he’s purchased elsewhere:

He buys German shepherds and Belgian Malinois from European breeders overseas and spends a few months training them to detect and locate drugs, explosives, and people. He then drives them to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio or a Department of Homeland Security facility in El Paso to sell them for a net profit of as much as $10,000 per dog.

The training process can take up to a few months, and Lyle generally has dozens of dogs on his property at a given time — which can require a ton or more of dog food each month. It’s an unconventional process, but it’s one that seems to have worked well for trainer, dogs and military alike.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.

Daily Brief

News From Around the Web

June 5, 2020 June 4, 2020