Why Military Dogs Might Receive Performance-Enhancing Drugs

These hardworking animals, with their 'enhanced senses,' would be operating in the most demanding combat environments

The Department of Defense’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) organization has announced that the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is in the market for performance-enhancing drugs … for their dogs.

According to the organization’s website, the objective is to “develop novel nutraceuticals and/or pharmaceuticals to enhance important USSOCOM Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC) performance, improve recovery time when wounded, and increase their survivability.”

The drugs would have to allow the dogs to acclimate to a wide range of extremes in temperatures and altitude while remaining hydrated.

When you dive below the bureaucratic language contained in the government contracting world, the request reads like Captain America’s “Super Soldier Serum” origin story. The desired compound would not only increase their endurance, but would improve the canine’s ability to perform in a diverse range of operational environments.

The drugs would have to allow the dogs to acclimate to a wide range of extremes in temperatures and altitude while remaining hydrated. These dogs would perform better and faster, with enhanced senses to include hearing, vision, and scent. When each mission is completed, the dogs would recover faster, and if injured in the line of duty, they would also have a higher rate of survival from trauma-induced blood loss. To top it all off, these hypothetical drugs have to be safe, affordable, and easy to administer.

Given that the request is coming from the command organization for Special Operations Forces in all branches of service, the performance-enhanced dogs would be operating alongside Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other top-tier operators. These canines would be working in the most demanding environments for organizations with the highest operational tempos of the entire Department of Defense.

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This is evident in the SITIS, (SBIR/STTR Interactive Topic Information System), which emphasizes the need to optimize a multipurpose canine’s ability to “perform at very high levels for long durations and to process the operational environment under high levels of stress and distractions.” This will result in an end state where the MPCs “significantly improve their operational effectiveness and recovery.”

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The multipurpose canines that operate alongside the Special Operations troops are already expected to outperform the standard working dog. They go on patrol, conduct tracking, operate as “attack dogs,” clear buildings, sniff out explosives, fast-rope from helicopters, and even take part in airborne operations.

Given that the acquisition and training of each individual multipurpose canine to be ready for its first deployment costs more than $50k, it only makes sense to ensure that each dog is enhanced to have the greatest chance of survival in the combat environment. The dogs currently attached to Special Operations units are already outfitted with the latest in cutting-edge technology, to include ballistic protection and tracking devices.

In addition to the request for performance-enhancing substances, the SBIR also has another request for a hearing protection and communications system for military working dogs. It goes without saying that other governmental organizations with canine units would also benefit from any successful development of these chemical compounds.

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The request itself also acknowledges that this technology would have widespread applications outside of military use, with commercial potential in the hunting, sporting, and agility sectors.

Chris Erickson is a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and an OpsLens contributor. He spent over 10 years in the Army and performed multiple combat deployments, as well as various global training missions throughout the world. He is still active in the veteran community and currently works in the communications industry. This OpsLens article is used by permission.

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