KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan has led to a dog surge — and unexpected problems in procuring high-quality dog food with enough protein and nutrients for hundreds of canines used to find explosives and perform other energy-intensive missions.
Along with about 37,000 U.S. and NATO troops, the number of military working dogs being brought into the country to search for mines and explosives and to accompany soldiers on patrol is increasing substantially, according to Nick Guidas, the American K-9 project manager for Afghanistan.
Guidas, a civilian contractor who oversees dog operations in southern Afghanistan, said he has 50 dogs on operational teams and about 20 more awaiting missions. He expects that number to go up to 219 by July.
"It may go as high as 315 dogs in Afghanistan," he said Saturday at a crowded kennel full of highly trained German and Dutch shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Labrador retrievers.
Guidas said because of their energy-intensive tasks, the dogs require special food made in the United States with extra protein and nutrients. The food needs to be shipped to Pakistan, then trucked to Kandahar.
In the past month alone, military dogs in southern Afghanistan have made 20 finds of unexploded devices, weapon caches and other materiel.