Luke AFB’s military working dogs participate in Desert Dog Trials at Scottsdale Stadium

Frida, a Military Working Dog assigned to the 56th Security Forces Squadron, takes down a decoy in the Desert Dog Trials Saturday, April 6 at Scottsdale Stadium. During the three-day event teams competed in multiple courses, including handler protection, building searches, agility obstacles, and a narcotics detection. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]

By Aspen Reid
Special to Independent Newsmedia

Luke Air Force Base’s 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dogs participated in the 2019 Desert Dog Trials Saturday, April 6 at Scottsdale Stadium.

Two teams of MWDs ran in the trials which included obstacles such as jumping and running through a tunnel, scaling a six-foot wall, attacking decoys and being carried by their handlers. The event has been held each year since 2003.

Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pedroza, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, pushes Frida, her MWD, over a six-foot wall during the Desert Dog Trials Saturday, April 6 at Scottsdale Stadium. As part of the course, Frida needed to scale the wall and attack the decoy on the other side while being distracted by all the toys in the pit. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]
Teams were judged based on how well the dog listened to its handler, its efficiency in navigating the course, and its ability to ignore distractions, among other things.

“We were graded on things like how well our dogs completed an obstacle and verbally outing [calling] the dog off of a bite,” said Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pedroza, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. “We also received more points if our dog was able to navigate obstacles without the assistance of a handler. As handlers, we received less points if we didn’t remain behind cover.”

Ms. Pedroza said she has been working with her MWD since January for the competition. Airmen and their MWDs spends hours training and preparing for the trials each year.

“Handlers were selected based on their ability and availability during the trials,” Ms. Pedroza said. “Those who competed this weekend actually gave up their time off to compete.”

Participating in events such as the Desert Dog Trials helps train the dogs and handlers for deployment situations, Ms. Pedroza explained.

“Events like these help expose the dogs to as many different scenarios as possible and give the handlers different tools on what they could possible expect state side or down range,” Ms. Pedroza said. “Seeing these scenarios encourage us to set up similar ones to advance the training of our dogs.”

MWDs aren’t the only competitors in the Desert Dog Trials. Fifteen different police stations, correction offices and sheriff departments also come out to show off their skills in the competition. Though MWDs are trained differently for deployment environments, a lot of the skill sets are the same.

Rango, a military working dog assigned to the 56th Security Forces Squadron, sprints towards his handler during the Desert Dog Trials Saturday, April 6 at Scottsdale Stadium. Teams ran a course with obstacles including running and jumping through a tunnel, attacking decoys and scaling a six-foot wall. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]
“There are 53 teams that competed this year,” said Rod Mamero, Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association public information officer. “Though not all the teams compete in every event.”

Ms. Pedroza explained this year was a new and unique time for her. Having only been paired with her dog, Frida, for the past six months comes with more challenges then a team who has been together for years.  This is her third time competing in the Desert Dog Trials.

“Frida is a privilege to work with,” Ms. Pedroza said. “The last two years for trials I had competed with a different dog. Competing this year was a mixture of nervousness and excitement.”

With all the teams competing, placing high proved difficult, but Staff Sgt. Cameron Mcfadden, 56th SFS MWD handler took the top spot in narcotics detections.

Editor’s note: Aspen Reid is an Airman 1st Class in Luke Air Force Base’s 56th Fighter Wing. The above was republished from a Luke Air Force Base news article.

A working dog with a local police department peeks its head through its handler’s legs, April 6, 2019 at Scottsdale Stadium. As a kick-off to the Desert Dog Trials, all the handlers competing stood in formation during opening ceremonies. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]
Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pedroza, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, carries Frida, her MWD, April 6 at Scottsdale Stadium. Pedroza and Frida were one of two teams from Luke Air Force Base that participated in the 2019 Desert Dog Trials. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]
The 2019 Desert Dog Trails were held Thursday-Saturday, April 4–7 at Scottsdale Stadium. The trials which tested military working dogs and their handlers in a series of events. Participants included officers from local police stations, corrections offices, sheriff’s offices and the 56th Security Forces Squadron. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]
A panel of judges totals up a team’s points after their run at the Desert Dog Trials Saturday, April 6 at Scottsdale Stadium. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]
Spectators watch as a working dog and its handler work through an obstacle at the Desert Dog Trials, April, 6, at Scottsdale Stadium The Desert Dog Trials have been hosted in the community for more than 15 years and test the teamwork and communication between handlers and the working dogs. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]
Police officers take a break during the Desert Dog Trials, as they wait for the next participant enter the field, April, 6, at Scottsdale Stadium. Decoys wear bite suits to protect themselves from the dogs strong bite. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid]



You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.