Military Working Dogs & Core Temperature Response

Research Paper Title

Core temperature responses of military working dogs during training activities and exercise walks.


Heat strain is common in military working dogs (MWDs), but can be mitigated by limiting duration of activity to avoid overheating and allowing sufficient time for recovery. To determine work/rest times for MWDs, temperature responses during training must be characterised.


This study measured body core temperature of 48 MWDs at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX.

Twenty-four MWDs in training for patrol and detection activities participated under a range of ambient temperatures in August (27°C-32°C), October (22°C-26°C) and March (approximately 13°C).

These MWDs swallowed a telemetric thermometer pill to measure continuous gastrointestinal tract temperature (Tgi).

Twenty-four kennel MWDs participated in July (25°C-29°C). In these dogs rectal temperature (Tre) was measured manually during a standard exercise walk.


For the MWDs in training, Tgi before the first activity was 38.5±0.5°C (mean±SD) and final Tgi was 39.8±0.6°C after sessions that lasted 13.1±4.9 minutes (5.4 to 26.3 minutes). Peak Tgi, 0.4±0.4°C above final Tgi, occurred 8 to 12 minutes into recovery.

Before beginning a second activity 40 to 165 minutes later, Tgi was within 0.5°C of initial values for 80% of dogs.

For the kennel MWDs, Tre was 39.0±0.8°C (37.7°C to 40.7°C) at the start and 40.1±0.6°C at the end of the 21.3±2.8 minute walk.


The continuous increase in core temperature during activity of both groups of MWDs indicates that limiting exercise duration is important for minimising risk of overheating in MWDs.

The observation of continued increase in Tgi to a peak after exercise ends suggests that for MWDs suspected of overheating temperature should be monitored for at least 15 minutes postexercise to ensure recovery.


O’Brien, C., Karis, A.J., Tharion, W.J., Sullivan, H.M., Hoyt, R.W. (2017) Core temperature responses of military working dogs during training activities and exercise walks. US Army Department Medical Journal. 2017 Oct-Dec;(3-17), pp.71-78.


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