Canines have become an integral part of the military. Whether it’s a Navy SEAL platoon or an Air Force Security Forces team, Military Working Dogs (MWD) are a key addition to the team.

The four-legged warfighters bring a lot to the table. Among many tasks, they can act as scouts, detect explosives, sniff out bad guys, incapacitate threats, or force terrorist leaders to opt for suicide. And as every serviceman, they deserve the best possible gear the country can offer.

A condition that is often encountered in MWDs or Special Operations Military Working Dogs (SOMWD) is temporary hearing loss from all the explosions, gunfire and even aircraft noise that is commonplace in the battlefield. The condition’s negative effects are further compounded by the difficulty of assessing the damage — canines, after all, cannot communicate medical issues as easily as humans.

To amend that, Zeteo Tech, a Maryland-based small business that focuses on developing health and welfare solutions for warfighters, and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) have developed a hearing protection system aimed at shielding SOMWD and MWD from short-term hearing loss.

The Canine Auditory Protection System (CAPS) is a lightweight hood that is made of acoustic absorption materials. The flexible nature of the fabric allows CAPS to fit all kinds of head shapes, thereby solving a major issue in standard-issued canine hearing protection. Current hearing protection is self-limited by its cumbersome designs and rigidness.

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The Canine Auditory Protection System, resembling a close-fitting hood, uniformly distributes the pressure required to hold the dogs’ hearing protection in place while avoiding challenges associated with straps. It is also compatible with other gear used by working dogs, such as goggles. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Zeteo Tech)

“Even a short helicopter flight can affect a dog’s hearing, resulting in impaired performance and inability to hear the handler’s commands, which can hinder the mission,” said Dr. Stephen Lee, senior scientist at Army Research Office. This new technology protects the canine while on missions and can extend the dog’s working life.”

CAPS can accommodate other gear used by SOWMDs and MWDs, such as goggles.

“This new technology will extend canines ability to work in a wide range of environments in combination with the Soldier and autonomous systems that could greatly enhance situational awareness of the individual Soldier in the future and empower a broader use for military working dogs in operations,” added Dr. Lee.

Dr. Pete “Skip” Scheifele M.D., a retired Navy Lieutenant Commander and currently a professor at the University of Cincinnati, was key in the development of CAPS.

“Zeteo Tech is excited to provide CAPS in response to a critical need for effective canine hearing protection in demanding environments,” said Michael McLoughlin, the vice president of Zeteo.