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Military Dogs Breeds
43 Secrets of Military Dogs
Conan, Rin Tin Tin, Sergant Stubby & Chips
What do Military Dogs Do?
Military Dogs for Adoption
Canines in Combat Worldwide
Famous Military Dogs
Anti-Tank War Dogs
26 Bravest Military Dogs
Military Dog Names
Do Military Dogs Get Paid?
Augmented Reality Goggles for Modern War Dogs
9 Modern Uses for Military Dogs
The Missions of Modern Military Dogs
The Diversity of War Dogs
7 Tips for Training War Dog
German Shepherd Military Dogs
Modern Army Dog Careers
Military Dog Handler Carrier
Canines in Combat
Military Dog Heroes
Military Dog Roles at Warfare
Parashute & Airplane Dogs
Bomb Squad Military Dogs
What Happens when Military Dog is Retired
Combat Canine Retirement
Types of Military Dogs
Types of War Dogs
Military Dogs in Action
How to Train Military Dog
Military Working Dogs
Dogs at Warfare
MWD - Military Working Dog

Military working dogs are the soldiers.

Since the United States military officially recognized "war dogs" in 1942, over 30,000 pups have served under the U.S. alone, bravely fighting alongside their human handlers in tasks such as scouting for enemy forces and hunting down explosives.

85% of military working dogs are purchased from Germany and the Netherlands

An average career for a MWD spans 8-9 years

Until November 2000, military dogs were euthanized or abandoned after retirement

According to a 2011 blog post by the US Military, military service dogs are all NCO โ€“ non commissioned officers and are given a rank higher than their handler.


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Dogs in warfare have a very long history starting in ancient times. From being trained in combat, to their use as scouts, sentries, messengers, mercy dogs and trackers, their uses have been varied and some continue to exist in modern military usage.

War dogs were used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Sarmatians, Baganda, Alans, Slavs, Britons, and Romans. Among the Greeks and Romans, dogs served most often as sentries or patrols, though they were sometimes taken into battle. The earliest use of war dogs in a battle recorded in classical sources was by Alyattes of Lydia against the Cimmerians around 600 BC.

The Lydian dogs killed some invaders and routed others. During the Late Antiquity, Attila the Hun used molosser dogs in his campaigns. Gifts of war dog breeding stock between European royalty were seen as suitable tokens for exchange throughout the Middle Ages. Other civilizations used armored dogs to defend caravans or attack enemies.


In the Far East, Vietnamese Emperor Le Loi raised a pack of 100 hounds, tended and trained by Nguyen Xรญ, whose skills were impressive enough to promote him to the commander of a shock troop regiment. Later on, Frederick the Great of Prussia used dogs as messengers during the Seven Years' War with Russia. Napoleon also used dogs during his campaigns. Dogs were used until 1770 to guard naval installations in France.

The first official use of dogs for military purposes in the U.S. was during the Seminole Wars. Hounds were used in the American Civil War to protect, send messages, and guard prisoners. General Grant recounts how packs of Southern bloodhounds were destroyed by Union troops wherever found due to them being trained to hunt men.Dogs were also used as mascots in American WWI propaganda and recruiting posters.

Dogs have been used in warfare by many civilizations. As warfare has progressed, their purposes have changed greatly.

Mid-seventh century BC:
In the war waged by the Ephesians against Magnesia on the Maeander, their horsemen were each accompanied by a war dog and a spear-bearing attendant. Dogs were released first and broke the enemy ranks, followed by an assault of spears, then a cavalry charge. An epitaph records the burial of a Magnesian horseman named Hippaemon with his dog Lethargos, his horse, and his spearman.

525 BC: At the Battle of Pelusium, Cambyses II used a psychological tactic against the Egyptians, arraying dogs and other animals in the front line to effectively take advantage of the Egyptian religious reverence for animals.

490 BC: At the Battle of Marathon, a dog followed his hoplite master into battle against the Persians and was memorialized in a mural.

480 BC: Xerxes I of Persia was accompanied by vast packs of Indian hounds when he invaded Greece. They may have served in the military and were possibly being used for sport or hunting, but their purpose is unrecorded.

281 BC: Lysimachus was slain during the Battle of Corupedium and his body was discovered preserved on the battlefield and guarded vigilantly by his faithful dog.

231 BC: Roman consul Marcus Pomponius Matho led the Roman legions through the inland of Sardinia. The inhabitants led guerrilla warfare, against the invaders, used "dogs from Italy" to hunt out the natives who tried to hide in the caves.

120 BC: Bituito, king of the Arverni, attacked a small force of Romans led by the consul Fabius, using just the dogs he had in his army.

1500s: Mastiffs and other large breeds were used extensively by Spanish conquistadors against Native Americans.

1914-18: Dogs were used by international forces to deliver vital messages. About a million dogs were killed in action. Sergeant Stubby, a Bull Terrier or Boston Terrier, has been called the most decorated war dog of World War I, and the only dog to be nominated for rank and then promoted to sergeant through combat. Recognized in connection with an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution. Among many other exploits, he said to have captured a German spy. He also became mascot at Georgetown University. Rags was another notable World War I dog.

1941-45: The Soviet Union deployed dogs strapped with explosives against invading German tanks, with limited success.

1943-1945: The United States Marine Corps used dogs, donated by their American owners, in the Pacific theater to help take islands back from Japanese occupying forces. During this period, the Doberman Pinscher became the official dog of the USMC, however, all breeds of dogs were eligible to train to be "war dogs of the Pacific". Of the 549 dogs that returned from the war, only four could not be returned to civilian life. Many of the dogs went home with their handlers from the war. Chips was the most decorated war dog during World War II.

1966-73: About 5,000 US war dogs served in the Vietnam War - the US Army did not retain records prior to 1968); about 10,000 US servicemen served as dog handlers during the war, and the K9 units are estimated to have saved over 10,000 human lives, 232 military working dogs and 295 US servicemen working as dog handlers were killed in action during the war. An estimated 200 Vietnam War dogs survived the war to be assigned to other US bases outside the US. The remaining canines were euthanized or left behind.

2011: United States Navy SEALs used a Belgian Malinois military working dog named Cairo in Operation Neptune Spear, in which Osama bin Laden was killed.

2019: United States 1st SFOD-D operators used a male Belgian Malinois named Conan during the Barisha raid.

2020: According to Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal, US military working dogs should be US breed instead of European. American breeders are said to become a necessity in the near term, Blumenthal said, solely due to increase in demand for the dogs.




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Throughout history, dogs have accompanied man at work and play. Even in the midst of men's wars, dogs have been found serving in functions ranging from mascots to weapons of war. Therefore, it was not without precedence that in 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into World War II, a small group of civilian dog enthusiasts approached the Army about creating a program that would utilize the special traits and skills of man's best friend in order to further the war effort.

When the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941, the U.S. Army possessed only a small number of sled dogs for use in arctic regions. Drawing on the1 lessons of the past, a group of civilians came together in the belief that dogs could serve the Army in a variety of other functions.

These dog fanciers formed a coalition called Dogs for Defense, Inc. (DFD). This organization encouraged dog owners across the country to donate their dogs for training as sentry dogs that would be used to patrol borders, beaches, and industrial facilities in order to prevent sabotage. With the endorsement of the American Kennel Club, DFD quickly began procuring dogs for experiments in training the animals for guard duty under the nominal oversight of the Plant Protection Branch of the Office of the Quartermaster General. In short order, some 100 dogs were procured by DFD and an ad hoc training program was initiated.


During the First World War, 20,000 British dogs were trained to complete extraordinary tasks, from laying telegraph wires to hauling machine guns. When a canine recruitment poster appeared in British newspapers in May 1941, during the Second World War, 7,000 dogs were put forward by their owners within two weeks. In 1918, Jack, an Airedale, saved the lives of the Sherwood Foresters, who had been surrounded by German troops, by delivering an urgent message for help. He died from bullet wounds shortly after reaching his receiver. The most recent British Army dog to receive this award was Sasha, a Labrador who located 15 bombs and ammunition caches in Afghanistan before being killed with her handler Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe in July 2008. In 2010 British special forces even parachuted German shepherd dogs, equipped with cameras, into Taliban strongholds to search for insurgents.



There are more than 150 expert dogs with the military that maintain a tight vigil along the Line of Control as well as in the hinterland. The dogs are specialised in three wings - Assault (who attack the enemy), Tracker (who track movements of the enemy) and Explosive Detection Dogs (who sniff explosives). The canines posted along the LoC in the heights of North Kashmir are generally double-coat German Shepherds which are best suited for the climate, while Labradors are used in the hinterland.



Five years after WWII, the Korean Conflict triggered the need for military working dogs again. They were chiefly deployed on combat night patrols and were detested by the North Koreans and Chinese because of their ability to ambush snipers, penetrate enemy lines and scent out enemy positions. It reached a point where reports noted the foes were using loudspeakers saying: Yankee, take your dog and go home! Despite the success of the canines on night patrols, the shuttling around of training duties on the home front resulted in only one Army scout-dog platoon seeing service in Korea. The Air Force, too, utilized dogs there, chiefly for patrolling air-base perimeters and guarding bomb dumps and supply areas.

In the corner of the Enmei Buddhist Temple grounds in the coastal city of Zushi in Japan's Kanagawa Prefecture, stands a stone cenotaph that reads "Monument to the Protection of Animals." The inscription dates back to 1958, but before that time there was another memorial here called the Monument to the Loyal Dogs. Although the incense still burns for the ashes of three dogs interred here more than 80 years ago, few of Zushi's residents could tell you what the stone actually stands in memory of. Inside the granite memorial lie the remains of three German Shepherds, all of whom were military working dogs who served in Manchuria in 1931 under the loving care of their Zushi-born handler, Maj. Itaru Itakura. Their story is one of a family tragedy twisted into military propaganda of truth distorted into drama as Japan marched into the Second Sino-Japanese War. It all began in Manchuria in September 1931.


Fast forward to Vietnam โ€“ a totally new environment and job description for these fur missiles, as some military dog handlers described them. Welcome to thick vegetation, continued rain, subsequent mud and plenty of challenging heat and humidity. An estimated 4,000 dogs and 9,000 military-dog handlers served in Vietnam. Their duties were widespread - scout, sentry, patrol, mine and booby-trap detection, water and combat. Like their predecessors in Korea, these four-legged soldiers were so hated by the Viet Cong, that they attracted a $20,000 bounty for their capture.




In stark contrast to Vietnam, the hot, dusty environments of Iraq and Afghanistan serve up a new set of challenges for military working dogs trained for explosive and drug detection, sentry, therapy and service work. There is no substitute for the detection of a dog. There is no machine built yet that can reciprocate what a dog can do. Dogs' sense of smell is roughly 50 times better than ours, meaning they can sniff out IEDs before they detonate and injure or kill U.S. servicemen in the prolonged Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. Ground patrols are able to uncover only 50% of these, but with dogs, the detection rate increases to 80%, claims the Defense Department.



Out of desperation, highly trained military dogs were used to destroy the enemy. In the early years of World War II, Soviet anti-tank dogs posed a major threat to the German advance. Strapped with explosives, these animals were sent on missions to destroy enemy equipment. Red Army Dogs of WW2 But the soviets were unscrupulous, they also trained their dogs to fight tanks, sniff mines and as spies - diversion service. Russian military trained half-starved dogs to run underneath tanks and armored vehicles in search for food, while explosives were strapped to their bodies.

It was founded in 1939 as part of Haganah, and later dismantled in 1954. In 1974, a new unit was established. The unit specializes in training and handling dogs for military applications. Originally, Oketz trained dogs to attack kidnappers, but training has since become more specialized, and now each dog is trained in a particular specialty. Attack dogs are trained to operate in both urban and rural areas - they were used extensively in Lebanon. Some dogs are trained to track and pursue selected targets for manhunts and to detect breaches at the Israeli border. Others are trained to search for guns and munitions, to sniff out hidden explosives, and to find people in collapsed buildings.


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Dogs have been used for many different purposes. Different breeds were used for different tasks, but always met the demands of the handlers. Many roles for dogs in war are obsolete and no longer practiced, but the concept of the war dog still remains alive and well in modern warfare.


In ancient times, dogs, often large mastiff- or molosser-type breeds, would be strapped with armor or spiked collars and sent into battle to attack the enemy. This strategy was used by various civilizations, such as the Romans and the Greeks. While not as common as in previous centuries, modern militaries continue to employ dogs in an attack role. SOCOM forces of the US military still use dogs in raids for apprehending fleeing enemies or prisoners, or for searching areas too difficult or dangerous for human soldiers - such as crawl spaces.

Another program attempted during World War II was suggested by a Swiss citizen living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. William A. Prestre proposed using large dogs to kill Japanese soldiers. He convinced the military to lease an entire island in the Mississippi to house the training facilities. There, the army hoped to train as many as two million dogs. The idea was to begin island invasions with landing craft releasing thousands of dogs against the Japanese defenders, then followed up by troops as the Japanese defenders scattered in confusion. One of the biggest problems encountered was getting Japanese soldiers with whom to train the dogs, because few Japanese soldiers were being captured.


Eventually, Japanese-American soldiers volunteered for the training. Another large problem was with the dogs; either they were too docile, did not properly respond to their beach-crossing training, or were terrified by shellfire. After millions of dollars were spent with inconclusive results, the program was abandoned.

The Soviet Union used dogs for antitank purposes beginning in the 1930s. Earlier antitank dogs were fitted with tilt-rod mines and trained to run beneath enemy tanks, which would detonate the mines automatically. However, the dogs were trained with stationary Russian tanks and very seldom ran under the moving tanks, instead, they were shot as they ran beside the moving tanks. When both Russian and German tanks were present, the dogs would preferentially run towards the familiar Russian tanks.

About the time World War I broke out, many European communities used dogs to pull small carts for milk deliveries and similar purposes. Several European armies adapted the process for military use. In August 1914, the Belgian Army used dogs to pull their Maxim guns on wheeled carriages and supplies or reportedly even wounded in their carts.

Two dogs of the sturdy and docile Martin Belge breed were used to pull each machine gun or ammunition cart. Already in common civilian use and cheap to buy and feed, the dogs proved hardier and more suitable for military use under fire than packhorses. The dogs were officially withdrawn from military use in December 1916, although several months were needed before horse-drawn carts and motor vehicles had fully replaced them.

The French had 250 dogs at the start of World War I. The Dutch army copied the idea and had hundreds of dogs trained and ready by the end of World War I - the Netherlands remained neutral. The Soviet Red Army also used dogs to drag wounded men to aid stations during World War II. The dogs were well-suited to transporting loads over snow and through craters. Dogs were often used to carry messages in battle. They were turned loose to move silently to a second handler.

This required a dog that was very loyal to two masters, otherwise the dog would not deliver the message on time or at all. Some messenger dogs also performed other communication jobs, such as pulling telephone lines from one location to another. A 2 kilogram (4 pound) Yorkshire terrier named Smoky was used to run a telegraph wire through a 10 to 20 centimetre in diameter (4 to 8 inch), 21 metre long, 70 foot pipe to ensure communication without moving troops into the line of fire.

Dogs were often used as unit mascots for military units. The dog in question might be an officer's dog, an animal that the unit chose to adopt, or one of their canines employed in another role as a working dog. Some naval dogs such as Sinbad and Judy were themselves enlisted service members. Some units also chose to employ a particular breed of dog as their standard mascot, with new dogs replacing the old when it died or was retired. The presence of a mascot was designed to lift morale, and many were used to this effect in the trenches of World War I. An example of this would be Sergeant Stubby for the US Army.

HISTORY OF MILITARY, ARMY & WARFARE DOGS - This photo by Gettyimages
In World War II, dogs took on a new role in medical experimentation, as the primary animals chosen for medical research. The animal experimentation allowed doctors to test new medicines without risking human lives, though these practices came under more scrutiny after the war.

The United States' government responded by proclaiming these dogs as heroes. The Cold War sparked a heated debate over the ethics of animal experimentation in the U.S., particularly aimed at how canines were treated in World War II. In 1966, major reforms came to this field with the adoption of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act.

Many dogs were used to locate mines. They did not prove to be very effective under combat conditions. Marine mine detecting dogs were trained using bare electric wires beneath the ground surface. The wires shocked the dogs, teaching them that danger lurked under the soil. Once the dog's focus was properly directed, dummy mines were planted and the dogs were trained to signal their presence. While the dogs effectively found the mines, the task proved so stressful for the dogs they were only able to work between 20 and 30 minutes at a time.

The mine-detecting war dogs anticipated random shocks from the heretofore friendly earth, making them extremely nervous. The useful service life of the dogs was not long. Experiments with laboratory rats show that this trend can be very extreme in some tests. rats even huddled in the corner to the point of starvation to avoid electric shock. Dogs have historically also been used in many cases to track fugitives and enemy troops, overlapping partly into the duties of a scout dog, but use their olfactory skill in tracking a scent, rather than warning a handler at the initial presentation of a scent.

All scout dogs must be taught the difference between human and animal scent. Some dogs are trained to silently locate booby traps and concealed enemies such as snipers. The dog's keen senses of smell and hearing would make them far more effective at detecting these dangers than humans. The best scout dogs are described as having a disposition intermediate to docile tracking dogs and aggressive attack dogs.

Scouting dogs are able to identify the opposing threat within 1,000 yards of area. This method of scouting is more efficient compared to human senses. Scout dogs were used in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam by the United States to detect ambushes, weapon caches, or enemy fighters hiding under water, with only reed breathing straws showing above the waterline. The US operated a number of scout-dog platoons - assigned on a handler and dog team basis to individual patrols and had a dedicated dog-training school in Fort Benning, Georgia.

One of the earliest military-related uses, sentry dogs were used to defend camps or other priority areas at night and sometimes during the day. They would bark or growl to alert guards of a stranger's presence. During the Cold War, the American military used sentry dog teams outside of nuclear weapons storage areas. A test program was conducted in Vietnam to test sentry dogs, launched two days after a successful Vietcong attack on Da Nang Air Base in July 1, 1965. 40 dog teams were deployed to Vietnam for a 4 month test period, with teams placed on the perimeter in front of machine gun towers and bunkers. The detection of intruders resulted in a rapid deployment of reinforcements.

The test was successful, so the handlers returned to the US while the dogs were reassigned to new handlers. The Air Force immediately started to ship dog teams to all the bases in Vietnam and Thailand. The buildup of American forces in Vietnam created large dog sections at USAF Southeast Asia (SEA) bases, 467 dogs were eventually assigned to Bien Hoa, Binh Thuy, Cam Ranh Bay, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Tuy Hoa, Phรน Cat, Phan Rang, Tan Son Nhut, and Pleiku Air Bases. Within a year of deployment, attacks on several bases had been stopped when the enemy forces were detected by dog teams.

Captured Vietcong told of the fear and respect that they had for the dogs. The Vietcong even placed a bounty on lives of handlers and dogs. The success of sentry dogs was determined by the lack of successful penetrations of bases in Vietnam and Thailand. The United States War Dogs Association estimated that war dogs saved over 10,000 U.S. lives in Vietnam. Sentry Dogs were also used by the Army, Navy, and Marines to protect the perimeter of a large bases.






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Contemporary dogs in military roles are also often referred to as police dogs, or in the United States and United Kingdom as a military working dog (MWD), or K-9. Their roles are nearly as varied as those of their ancient relatives, though they tend to be more rarely used in front-line formations. As of 2011, 600 U.S. MWDs were actively participating in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Traditionally, the most common breed for these police-type operations has been the German Shepherd, in recent years, a shift has been made to smaller dogs with keener senses of smell for detection work, and more resilient breeds such as the Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd for patrolling and law enforcement.


All MWDs in use today are paired with a single individual after their training. This person is called a handler. While a handler usually does not stay with one dog for the length of either's career, usually a handler stays partnered with a dog for at least a year, and sometimes much longer. The latest canine tactical vests are outfitted with cameras and durable microphones that allow dogs to relay audio and visual information to their handlers.


In the 1970s, the US Air Force used over 1,600 dogs worldwide. Today, personnel cutbacks have reduced USAF dog teams to around 530, stationed throughout the world. Many dogs that operate in these roles are trained at Lackland Air Force Base, the only United States facility that currently trains dogs for military use. Military working dog with goggles for eye protection Change has also come in legislation for the benefit of the canines. Prior to 2000, older war dogs were required to be euthanized. The new law permits adoption of retired military dogs. One notable case of which was Lex, a working dog whose handler was killed in Iraq.

Numerous memorials are dedicated to war dogs, including at March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California - the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, at the Naval Facility, Guam, with replicas at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville - the Alfred M. Gray Marine Corps Research Center in Quantico, Virginia and the Alabama War Dogs Memorial at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama.

As a partner in everyday military police work, dogs have proven versatile and loyal officers. They can chase suspects, track them if they are hidden, and guard them when they are caught. They are trained to respond viciously if their handler is attacked, and otherwise not to react at all unless they are commanded to do so by their handler. Many police dogs are also trained in detection, as well.

Both MWDs and their civilian counterparts provide service in drug detection, sniffing out a broad range of psychoactive substances despite efforts at concealment. Provided they have been trained to detect it, MWDs can smell small traces of nearly any substance, even if it is in a sealed container.

Dogs trained in drug detection are normally used at ports of embarkation such as airports, checkpoints, and other places where security and a need for anticontraband measures exist. MWDs can also be trained to detect explosives. As with narcotics, trained MWDs can detect minuscule amounts of a wide range of explosives, making them useful for searching entry points, patrolling within secure installations, and at checkpoints. These dogs are capable of achieving over a 98% success rate in bomb detection.

The use of MWDs on prisoners by the United States during recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been controversial. Iraq War: The United States has used dogs to intimidate prisoners in Iraqi prisons. In court testimony following the revelations of Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, it was stated that Colonel Thomas M. Pappas approved the use of dogs for interrogations. Private Ivan L. Frederick testified that interrogators were authorized to use dogs and that a civilian contract interrogator left him lists of the cells he wanted dog handlers to visit. They were allowed to use them to intimidate inmates, Frederick stated.

The use of dogs to intimidate prisoners in Iraq is believed to have been learned from practices at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The use of dogs on prisoners by regular U.S. forces in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base was prohibited by Donald Rumsfeld in April 2003. A few months later, revelations of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison were aired, including use of dogs to terrify naked prisoners. Rumsfeld then issued a further order prohibiting their use by the regular U.S. forces in Iraq.

Traditionally, as in World War II, US MWDs were returned home after the war, to their former owners or new adopted ones. The Vietnam War was different in that US war dogs were designated as expendable equipment and were either euthanized or turned over to an allied army prior to the US departure from South Vietnam. Due to lobbying efforts by veteran dog handlers from the Vietnam War, Congress approved a bill allowing veteran US MWDs to be adopted after their military service. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a law that allowed these dogs to be adopted, making the Vietnam War the only American war in which US war dogs never came home.

Military working dogs continue to serve as sentries, trackers, search and rescue, scouts, and mascots. Retired MWDs are often adopted as pets or therapy dogs. Canines' natural skills and instincts, honed through intense training, make them proficient at locating bombs, weapons and drugs and, at times, finding and supplying wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Dogs were also trained to locate wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Supplied with their own gas masks, they could bring supplies or rations to wounded soldiers. Military dogs are proficient at detecting bombs, weapons and drugs and are also used in counter-terrorism missions.





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In addition to all the fine qualities that dogs have as team members, dogs can do even more. They have visual and olfactory sensory abilities that are literally superhuman, can go where a soldier cannot, and can often subdue or intimidate a foe more quickly with non-lethal force. Because of these traits, they have been successfully trained for many military duties and roles by modern armies for a century.

War Dogs: Sense of Smell
Among the dog's abilities that far exceed a man is his sense of smell. Dogs are reported to have ten to twenty times the number of receptors in their nose, compared to a human, and the olfactory part of their brain devoted to smell, is much larger. This gives them the ability to detect very faint odors and to discriminate between very slight differences in chemical composition.


This literally superhuman ability makes dogs ideal for tasks such as tracking, detection of explosives or narcotics, casualty location, and search and rescue. When there is little or no wind, a dog can detect intruders up to 200 meters away using its senses of smell, hearing, and sight. When placed to take advantage of odors carried on the wind the range is extended, to perhaps as much as 1000 meters. In unfavorable wind conditions, a dog can still detect by sound and sight. Of course, a dog's capabilities are reduced by smoke, dust, heavy vegetation, and similar confusing factors.

Roles and Duties for Military Working Dogs
Over the centuries dogs have had many roles with the military, but in modern times specific duties have been defined where dogs can give the best service. While in the past they have done everything from catch rats to draw fire to expose enemy positions, today dogs are given humane tasks where their special skills do the most good.

Sentry Dogs
These dogs worked on a short leash and were taught to give warning by growling, alerting or barking. They were especially valuable for working in the dark when attack from cover or the rear was most likely. The sentry dog was taught to accompany a military or civilian guard on patrol and give him warning of the approach or presence of strangers within the protected area. Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers of the approach or presence of strange persons and are utilized for garding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.

Their use has proved them to be valuable in any place where security against intruders must be maintained. Of the 10,425 dogs trained in WW II, around 9,300 were used for sentry duty. Sentry dogs were issued to hundreds of military organizations such as coastal fortifications, harbor defenses, arsenals, ammunition dumps, airfields, depots and industrial plants. The largest group of sentry dogs (3,174) were trained in 1943 and issued to the Coast Guard for beach patrols guarding against enemy submarine activities.

Scout or Patrol Dogs
In addition to the skills for sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs were trained to work in silence to aid in the detection of snipers, ambushes and other enemy forces within a particular locality. Only dogs with superior intelligence and a quiet disposition were selected for scout dog training. The scout dog and his Quartermaster handler normally walked point on combat patrols, well in front of the Infantry patrol.

Scout dogs could detect the presence of the enemy at distances up to 1,000 yards, long before men became aware of them. When a scout dog alerted to the enemy, the dog would stiffen its body, raise its hackles, prick its ears and hold its tail rigid. The presence of the dogs with patrols greatly lessened the danger of ambush and tended to boost morale.

Messenger Dogs
The most desired quality in these dogs was loyalty, since the dogs must be motivated by the desire to work with two handlers. They learned to travel silently and take advantage of natural cover when moving between the two handlers.

Mine Dogs
These dogs, also called the "M-Dog" or mine detection dog, were trained to find trip wires, booby traps, metallic and nonmetallic mines. Units were sent to North Africa in World War II. However, the dogs had problems detecting mines under combat conditions.

Casualty Dogs
Casualty Dogs, like search and rescure dogs, are trained to search for and report casualties lying in obscure places, casualties that are difficult for collecting parties to locate. In cases of severe shock or hemorrhage, minutes saved in locating such casualties often mean the difference between life and death.

Tunnel Dogs
In Vietnam there was a specialized requirement for tunnel dogs to detect amd explore the tunnels exploited by the Viet Cong. The tunnel dwellers feared the dogs and used tactics to confuse the dogs. For example they washed with GI soap and covered air vents with shirts taken from Americans so the dogs' sense of smell would not be alerted.

Explosives Detection
In the War on Terrorism a common threat is explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or roadside location. Explosives Detection dogs are trained to alert on the scent of chemicals used in explosives. With their superior sense of smell it is very difficult to package explosives in a way a dog cannot detect. Explosives dogs are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other CONUS and OCONUS locations for this purpose.


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Maria Goodavage

The nature and nurture of military dogs is complicated because of their breeding and where they come from, to be sure, but it is necessarily diverse because there is such a range of jobs they do. To understand which breeds of dogs get selected for which jobs in the military, it helps to know a little about the range of roles these dogs have. You might think - Seen one military working dog, seen them all, but these dogs are as diverse as the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines they work beside.

Just about everything in the military has an acronym, from the sublime (COPPER for Chemo terrorism Operations Policy for Public Emergency) to the ridiculous (POO for Point of Origin - when a dog handler told me about how he had to go back to the POO in order to start his mission, it painted an odd picture.) Military working dog jobs are no exception. It is simpler to divide the dogs into some broad categories, and then tap into the acronyms.

Single-Purpose Dogs are used for one purpose only: sniffing out explosives or narcotics or in the case of combat tracking dogs, humans. They tend to be "sporting" breeds, like Labrador retrievers, golden and Chesapeake Bay retrievers, Viszlas, and various short-and wire-haired pointers. Jack Russell terriers and even small poodles sometimes make appearances.

Single-purpose dogs do not need to be aggressive. They can be all nose, no bite. Some single-purpose dogs might get naturally protective, but as most handlers of dogs like Labs will attest, they are more likely to lick you to death. A couple of the jobs (CTDs and MDDs) tend to employ dogs more typically associated with dual-purpose work, like German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch shepherds.

These dogs are trained to locate either drugs or explosives โ€“ never both. You do not want to have to stand there guessing if Balco M492 is alerting to a stash of heroin or a pressure plate IED. When your dog makes an alert you need to know whether to run away and call the explosives people or whether to go arrest someone. Types of single-purpose dogs and the jobs they do include:

EDD (Explosive Detector Dog) - This is your standard-fare single-purpose dog, used in all branches of the military. The handlers of these dogs are military police who spend months going through dog-handler school at Lackland Air Force Base.

NDD (Narcotics Detector Dog) - Just like the EDD, except this dog detects drugs instead of explosives.

SSD (Specialized Search Dog) - These dogs go a step beyond EDD work. SSDs are a special class of dogs trained to work off leash at long distances from a handler in order to find explosives. They work by hand signals, and in the Marines can also receive commands via radio receivers they wear on their backs. The Air Force and Navy do not have SSDs. These dogs can be breeds that are usually reserved for dual-purpose, like German shepherds.

CTD (Combat Tracker Dog) - Explosives dogs and SSDs can detect where IEDs and weapons caches are located, but it is up to the highly-trained CTDs to track down the person who stashed the explosives. This is a Marine program only. Although the job is in our single-purpose dog list, combat tracker dogs are more typically dual-purpose dog breeds these days. Labs were too goofy for the work, a longtime CTD trainer told me. CTDs generally work on a long retractable leash.

MDD (Mine Detection Dog) - These dogs do slow and steady off-leash searches for buried mines and artillery. This is an Army program only. Labs, shepherds, and Malinois are the preferred breeds for this job.

TEDD (Tactical Explosive Detector Dog) - Lackland does not procure dogs for the Army's TEDD program. Contractors do, and they generally buy them from U.S. vendors. The program is a temporary one created in response to a request from former general David Petraeus for an influx of special sniffer dogs to help with IED detection. Select infantrymen from deploying units are given short-term training on how to work with these dogs, who are trained by contractors.

IDD (IED Detector Dog) - As with TEDDs, this is a temporary program created to fulfill the urgent need for bomb dogs. It is run by the Marine Corps, and accounts for the majority of sporting breed dogs in the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program. The dogs are bought from breeders and vendors around the U.S. by contractors, who train them and the infantrymen who will be their handlers. The training of IDD handlers and TEDD handlers is far shorter than that of other MWD handlers โ€“ many say too short to ensure the safest and most effective dog teams.

Dual-purpose dogs do both patrol work - protection, aggression when needed, and detection work, along with some basic scouting. Scouting is the ability to track human scent through the air. Dual purpose dogs are the most common type of dog Hilliard's team procures for the DOD. Most dual-purpose dogs are German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch shepherds. The shepherds usually hail from Eastern Europe, and the Malinois from The Netherlands and other Western European countries. The dogs the DOD uses are not usually pedigreed or registered. What the DOD wants is functionality, not pure breed lines. This can make dogs heartier and less prone to problems. The mixing of breeds is particularly prevalent in the Belgian Malinois.

Want a bigger Malinois? The breeder won't hesitate to mingle the Malinois with a Great Dane. Want a stronger dog with more reliable nerves than the more reactive and thin-nerved Malinois? Breed the Malinois to a German shepherd. Doc Hilliard says he is also seen Malinois with very distinctive mixes of boxer, boxer & pit bull, and boxer-Bouvier as well. At times this intermingling can make for dogs who are exactly on the cusp of one dog breed or the other, and it can be hard to tease apart the dog's background. The difference between calling a dog a Malinois or a German shepherd, for instance, can come down to the type of head the dog has, or the dog's body angles. A more sloped hind end might be the final arbiter in calling the dog a shepherd.

The list of jobs for these dual-purpose dogs is blissfully short compared with the alphabet soup that makes up their single-purpose counterparts' job list. Some say it is best for a dog to have just one job and specialize in it, but most handlers think dual purpose dogs work just fine.

PEDD (Patrol Explosive Detector Dog) - PEDDs are the backbone of the war-dog program. The dogs are used by MPs and other law enforcement across all services. In addition to sniffing out bombs and doing patrol work, these dogs have some basic scouting abilities.

PNDD (Patrol Narcotics Detector Dog) - These dogs are the drug-sniffing counterparts of PEDDs, and are also used in Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

Multi-purpose canines are the Cairos of the military. They are used by Special Operations personnel. MPC is both a category and a job description. In addition to doing everything PEDDs can do, these super high drive dogs can be used in parachute or rappel operations. They sometimes wear waterproof tactical vests, night-vision or infrared cameras so handlers can see what they are seeing as they work from a distance, and other highly specialized canine equipment. They are extremely resilient, environmentally sound, and almost unflappable. They can do all this and jump through a ring of fire and tear you to pieces if they need to.



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1. German Shepherd
This beautiful pup is a top pick for a variety of reasons. First of all, German Shepherds are strong, agile and easy to train for scout dog duty. But that is not all. Importantly, these doggos are not overly aggressive, so that they can remain calm in hostile locations. Plus, their loyal and predictable personality makes for a dependable wing-man when one of these beauties is by your side in a warzone. Few breeds are up to as many service dog tasks as German Shepherds.

2. Belgian Malinois
This German Shepherd look-alike possesses the same dependable, intelligent, and trainable personality as the real deal. There is a little twist with a Belgian Malinois that makes a difference though. These pups come in a more compact form than German Shepherds, which makes them better for missions where they are parachuted or repelled into a situation with their handlers. That slight difference in size can make a huge difference in a war zone.

3. Labrador Retriever
Everyone who has ever owned a Labrador Retriever can tell you that their nose is naturally gifted. So, it only makes sense that this pooch with the always on sense of smell would be the ideal choice for sniffing out explosives. They are also well suited to search and rescue missions where timing is critical and you need an ultra-obedient dog with an effective nose on the job. Labrador Retrievers are the perfect pups to smell out danger and lead with their noses on the battlefield.

4. Doberman Pinscher
It is no surprise that this lean, athletic pooch has been a favorite of the US Marines dating back to WWII. Often dubbed the Devil Dog of the Marines, the Doberman Pinscherโ€™s intelligence, easy trainability, and alertness make the breed a perfect choice for the role of a Scout or Patrol dog. They have been on the front lines for generations now and that won't be changing any time soon.

5. Rottweiler
This beautifully big pooch is confident, ready to work, and best of all loyal. That made Rottweilers the ideal candidate to serve as messenger dogs back during WWI and WWII. During an era when communication was far more difficult, soldiers had to rely on these remarkable dogs' strong devotion to their handlers to make their way through dangerous and scary terrain to deliver information. While messenger dogs thankfully are not as necessary on the battlefield these days, they still often serve in the military.

6. Boxer
An inherent wariness around strangers, an alert disposition, natural strength and impressive agility made these athletic dogs with the jowly good looks and iconic underbites an ideal candidate for work in the military during WWI. At that time, boxers held a wide variety of roles including messenger dog, scout, and patrol dog. They were one of the most versatile service dog breeds of the era and continue to be trained for military service to this day.

7. Airedale Terrier
While Airedale Terriers can be bit headstrong, these athletic pups are quick to pick up commands, obedient, loyal, and are not a big fan of strangers. This makes them ideal candidates to serve as scouts or patrol dogs. The Airedale Terriers' superior sense of smell was spotted by the military and frequently used in search and rescue missions during WWI.

8. Giant Schnauzer
The Giant Schnauzer began being used in a soldierly capacity during the 40's when the Soviets were trying to develop the perfect military dog. Giant Schnauzers were used as a foundation breed for the Soviets and served that army well. Typically, these dogs have a reserved personality and are inherently suspect of strangers as well as quite territorial. So, obviously that is the dog you want to take on night patrol. These pups won't let any stranger cross enemy lines without alerting their masters.

9. Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies
War was not always on the field or in the jungles and during WWII. A number of planes en route to Europe ended up crash landing in Greenland. The U.S. knew they needed a special type of dog to locate and help rescue these airmen. So the military drafted Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. These pups were up for the difficult task in the snow and have served as military service animals in cold climates ever since.

10. Yorkshire Terrier
How could these cute little pups who fit easily into handbag possible serve in the military? Well, heroes truly come in all sizes, so let's not forget a wee Yorkie named Smoky who protected his human troop pack during WWII by pulling urgently needed telegraph wires through a really scary, partially destroyed 70-foot pipe that ran under an airfield exposed to enemy fire. Sometimes you need a little dog to get you you out of a tight spot and the fiercely loyal and despite the pint size, fearless Yorkshire Terrier has proven to be up to difficult tasks where larger doggos would dare not go.

11. Bully Breeds
We bully breeds, including me, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, generally show both a natural affinity for humans and great physical strength. I myself was bred in England partly for some wretched fighting sports, but also for companionship. Let me introduce you to Stubby, a bully breed mix, who warned his WWI unit of poisonous gas, assisted in capturing an enemy spy, alerted his unit to incoming artillery shells and found injured soldiers. We bully breeds cherish the war posters depicting us as symbols of dedication and valor.

12. Bouvier des Flandres
Originating from Belgium, the Bouvier des Flandres is a powerful and large dog that is been serving in Wars and Police forces for decades. Though they were bred to be all-purpose farm dogs, they evolved to be so much more. Bouviers first began their military careers during World War I.

They did everything - from delivering urgent messages to pulling ambulance litters. They were so active during war that so many Bouviers lost their lives in the line of duty. In fact, they almost went extinct. After the first World War, organizations and groups began to revive the breed in France, Netherlands and United States. Once again serving their duties, Bouviers participated in the Second World War.



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Brad Cohick

Between 1899 and 1914, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) was developed by Captain Max von Stephanitz of the German Army to be a working dog. Many years of selective breeding by Stephanitz honed the traits of intelligence, loyalty, dedication, and tenacity needed for military and police applications. Eager to show the prowess of the new breed, Stephanitz loaned these new dogs to German police departmentsโ€“the first K9 Corps.

During this trial period with German police, these new dogs showed great promise in areas such as obedience, tracking, and protection. Stephanitz believed these dogs could also be useful to the German military. After these early trials with German Police units, Stephanitz sought to have GSDs added to German Military units. The timing could not have been better for Stephanitz and his new German Shepherd Dogs.

World War I
In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, German Shepherd Dogs began serving with the German Military. They performed a number of tasks on the battlefield and within the ranks of the German Army. These new dogs served as sentries, messengers, and ammunition carriers. They proved themselves especially capable in aiding wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

They even led injured and blinded soldiers off the battlefield to safety and medical attention. This latter act by the new breed eventually led to the development of the first seeing eye dog, an important function the GSD still serves today.

While at first amused by the use of dogs on the battlefield, the soldiers on both sides of the conflict were quickly impressed. They saw these new dogs performing numerous heroic acts under stressful and dangerous conditions.

In fact, soldiers were so impressed by the dogsโ€™ capabilities that after the conflict, the Germans, as well as the Americans and the English, began to develop their own cadre of German Shepherd Dogs for use in the military. GSDs would prove themselves again in conflict when World War II broke out in 1939.

World War II
During WWII, the Germans again utilized GSDs, and the U.S. began deploying them, as well. U.S. GSDs served mainly as messengers, helping soldiers to communicate on the battlefield. GSDs also acted as guards and search and rescue dogs during the war. In all of these roles, the GSDs performed well. This led to the establishment of many K-9 training camps, where GSDs began training regularly for service in the U.S. Military. Beginning in August 1942, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps established dog training centers at Front Royal, VA; Fort Robinson, NE; Cat Island (Gulfport), MS; Camp Rimini (Helena), MT; and San Carlos CA.

The K-9 Corps initially accepted 32 breeds of dogs for training. By 1944, however, the military reduced that list to seven: German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Siberian huskies, farm collies, Eskimo dogs, and Malamutes. Today, GSDs are the only breed still trained by the U.S. Military from that original list. Modern additions include the Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retrievers now being trained and mobilized as Military Working Dogs (MWDs).

Formal Training
Training for dogs at these K-9 Camps lasted between 8 and 12 weeks and consisted of "basic training" to get the dogs accustomed to military life. After this initial 12 week training period, the dogs would go on to a specialized training course in one of four areas: Sentry Dog training, Scout or Patrol Dog training, Messenger Dog training, or Mine Detection Dog training.

After successful completion of the specialized training, the dogs and their handlers would be organized into War Dog Platoons. During the course of World War II, the military deployed fifteen War Dog Platoons to the European and Pacific Theaters of War. Seven served in the European Theater and eight in the Pacific Theater. It has been said that while on patrol in the Pacific Theater with a War Dog Platoon, no units were ever ambushed thanks to the K-9s assigned to those units. Many of the dogs trained and deployed during WWII were German Shepherd Dogs.

The Korean War
After World War II, due to lack of interest and budget issues, the military cancelled and closed most of the War Dog Programs. The 26th Scout Dog Platoon, however, stayed intact to some degree and moved from Front Royal, Virginia to Fort Riley, Kansas in 1948. On December 7th, 1951, the responsibility for dog training was transferred to the Military Police Corps. The 26th Scout Dog Platoon moved again to Fort Carson, Colorado. The 26th Scout Dog Platoon was the only active War Dog Platoon to serve in the Korean War.

It served with honor and distinction in Korea from June 12th, 1951 to June 26th, 1953. Platoon members were awarded a total of three Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars for Valor, and 35 Bronze Stars for meritorious service. On February 27th, 1953, the Department of the Army recognized the accomplishments of the platoon in General Order No. 21. One Dog who proved an outstanding success with the 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon in Korea was Scout Dog York. York completed 148 combat patrols, the last one coming the day before the Armistice was signed officially ending the war. On July 1, 1957, the War Dog Training Center was moved from Fort Carson, Colorado to Fort Benning, Georgia.

During the initial phases of the Vietnam War, German Shepherds were used mainly on Air Force installations as sentry dogs. However, as the war escalated, The United States Marine Corps entered into a service agreement with the US Army to have them train German Shepherds as scout dogs. This would be the first time since World War II that the Marines had used scout dogs. Two Marine scout dog platoons were deployed to Vietnam in February 1966. The Marines kenneled their dogs near Da Nang at Camp Kaiser, named after the first Marine scout dog to be killed in action in Vietnam. The first Army scout dog platoon was deployed to Vietnam when the 25th IPSD arrived at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in June 1966. Between late 1965 and January 1969, 22 Army Scout Dog Platoons, including the 47th IPSD and Four Marine Scout Dog Platoons were deployed to Vietnam.

9/11 and Beyond
German Shepherd Dogs have been part of the US Military's Military Working Dog program since the end of the Vietnam war, through the Cold War years and up to today's climate of global terrorism and asymmetric threats. German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are the most common breeds of dogs used by military operators, because they have the best overall combination of keen sense of smell, endurance, speed, strength, courage, intelligence, and adaptability to almost any climatic condition. Currently, the Army has approximately 600 dog teams, which have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The courage and loyalty of these dogs have continued to save lives and prevent injuries since creation of the K-9 Corps.

Many of the dogs on these current teams are German Shepherds, and they serve in many roles and perform many duties. Today, we can see German Shepherds performing HALO jumps with Special Operators and inserting from boats with Navy SEAL Teams. These dogs continue to be valued members of our Military and patriotic guardians of our freedom. German Shepherd Dogs likely will have a place in our military for years to come. They have served with distinction in many theaters and in many conflicts around the world. Should you have the good fortune to meet MWD teams, please thank them for serving our country.

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Emily Upton

These dogs, usually Alsatians, were also called "Hundminen" or "dog mines." They were trained to carry explosives on their bodies to enemy tanks, where they would then be detonated. No, it did not end very well for the dogs in question. This type of animal weaponry was first used by the Soviets. Following a decision in 1924 to allow dogs to aid the military, a dog training school was set up in Moscow.

The military recruited such people as police dog trainers, hunters, circus trainers, and animal scientists. Twelve more schools were set up hot on the heels of the first one and the Soviet dog-training division started out in earnest.

At first, dogs were trained to carry supplies, tracking mines, and rescuing people -tasks at which the dogs excelled. In the early 1930s, they decided it would be a good idea to turn man's best friend into an anti-tank weapon. Three of the schools began training dogs for this purpose. First, they were trained to carry a bomb to a tank and run off; afterwards, their handler could detonate the bomb with a remote or the bomb may have simply been set with a timer.


There were several reasons that these methods did not work. To drop the bomb, the dogs had to pull on a belt with his teeth to release it. This proved to be too complicated, and often the dog would simply return to its handler without releasing the bomb. Secondly, remotes were too expensive at the time to be used practically, so timers would be used more often instead. If the dog returned to his handler with the bomb still attached, he would have killed the handler and himself. Even if the bomb was released under the tank, if the tank was in motion and the timing was not set just so, the bomb would simply explode without doing any damage to the enemy tank.

The Soviets scrapped their initial plan, but unfortunately for Fido, they came up with a new one. Rather than drop a bomb, explosives would be strapped to the dog. When the dog went under the tank, the bomb would be triggered, killing the dog and, hopefully, disabling the tank. As if ending their life was not enough, the training involved was not exactly a walk in the park. The dogs were starved, and then food was placed under a practice tank, training them to think that food was under all tanks. After a while, additional battle sounds were added to their practice runs so that they would not be spooked when they were running under the real thing.


Anti-tank dogs started being used in earnest in 1941, when German forces advanced on Soviet lands. Thirty dogs kicked off what would be a rather lacklustre debut for the exploding dog-force, indeed, the dogs were so ineffective that the Soviet military was accused of simply sacrificing them. Part of the problem was that many of the dogs refused to dive under the tanks in the field.

They were being shot at, which had not happened in training, and they were understandably not willing to dive under some huge "beast" that was seemingly trying to kill them. Food can only motivate an animal so much. I could put a steak on my vacuum cleaner and my dog would not go near it, even if she was starving. A tank with guns a-blazing is a tad more noisy and frightening.

When the dogs were shot and killed before they could get into position and blow up, they were taken by German soldiers who were able to examine the weaponry and potentially copy it themselves. They did not end up taking advantage - rather, one captured German soldier claimed that they found the entire system rather inefficient. Well, it was.

One downside of this was that the Germans did take measures to defend themselves against the dogs, rendering their sacrifice often useless. A much larger problem was that the dogs had been trained with Soviet tanks, not German ones. Soviet and German tanks used different types of fuel, and some of the dogs sniffed out the fuel they were used to and trotted off to blow up the tanks used by the very military that trained them. Oops.


That said, the anti-tank dogs are known to have taken out some tanks, including at the Battle of Kursk in which twelve tanks were destroyed by sixteen deployed dogs. This was possibly one of the most successful anti-tank dog ventures in history. The Soviets later reported that some 300 tanks total had been destroyed by anti-tank dogs, but many question this number, thinking it was probably made up by the Soviet government who wanted to justify the program, particularly justify killing so many dogs with so few results. Whether they were useful or not, anti-tank dogs started to be used less and less from 1942 onwards, though there were anti-tank dogs that continued to be trained until 1996.

While the Soviets were perhaps the most prominent users of anti-tank dogs, they were trained in other countries, too, including Japan and the United States. Much more recently, bombs were strapped to dogs as late as 2007 when insurgents attempted to use them during the Iraq War. In this case, there is only one documented case of a bomb actually being detonated while attached to a dog though; protests rose up among Muslims who believe that animals should be killed only for food.


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Griffin Shaffer

These exemplary pups demonstrate the loyalty, intelligence and grit inherent in military working dogs. They guard and protect their humans, fiercely defend their friends, and stick with their comrades until the end. You should salute them! Here are few of the bravest military dogs ever:

1. Sergeant Stubby - World War I
We start off the list with probably the most famous and highly decorated WWI American dog, Sgt. Stubby. Stubby's list of bravery is incredible. First, he caught a German spy mapping Allied positions. Then, in Feb. 1918, Stubby's battalion was hit by a poison gas attack. Stubby survived, and his nose became acutely sensitive to gas attacks.

During the next poison gas attack, Stubby sniffed it out early, woke the soldiers and saved their lives. Stubby also became an expert in finding wounded and deceased soldiers. He was even injured by shrapnel from a German grenade. When Stubby returned home, he was a hero of monumental proportions. Stubby met three presidents, led hundreds of parades, and became the official mascot of Georgetown University!

2. Valdo - Afghanistan
The next hero on our list is Valdo. Valdo is a bomb-sniffing dog based in Afghanistan. Valdo, along with his handler, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Lee, trained nearly every day to save lives with Valdo's incredible nose. However, Valdo did much more than that. During a mission in 2011, Valdo shielded four troops against a rocket propelled grenade and took on the brunt of the shrapnel. Valdo was seriously injured. Luckily, Valdo recovered from his injuries and Lee says he hopes to adopt the brave dog.

3. Treo
Across the pond, a British military bomb-sniffing black lab named Treo was awarded the UK's highest animal military honor. Treo received the Dickin Medal for detecting multiple roadside bombs and saving hundreds of lives.

4. Lucca โ€“ Iraq
Lucca, an amazingly brave military dog who was severely injured in the line of duty, is truly an inspiration. In March 2012, Lucca lost her leg while protecting a platoon of Marines from a roadside bomb. Lucca's story is featured in the video above.

5. Smoky
Our next hero proves that size does not matter when it comes to serving your country and saving lives. Smoky, a 4-pound Yorkshire terrier, was found in the jungle of New Guinea and purchased by American soldier Bill Wynne. During WWII, Smoky earned honors for bravery after she warned Wynne of incoming fire on a transport ship.

6. Rags
Another amazing WWI hero dog was Rags. Rags, a Cairn Terrier mix, was found by Pvt. James Donovan in Paris. Donovan returned to his division with Rags, and the pup soon became a carrier dog, delivering messages over dangerous battlefields to Allied troops. Rags and Donovan were seriously hurt in a gas attack. Donovan died from the complications, but Rags made a full recovery and became a celebrity around the country. Rags made the rank of lieutenant colonel and when he died, Rags was buried with military honors.

7. Chips - World War II
The most decorated American K9 that served in World War II was Chips. Chips, a German Shepherd-Collie-Husky mix, was deployed to North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. During the invasion of Sicily in 1943, Chips and his handler were pinned down by machine gun fire. Chips broke free and attacked the enemy gunmen, pinning them down and eventually forcing their surrender to American troops. Chips was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart, although later rescinded because at the time dogs could not receive those awards. He did however receive many more accolades over his life.

8. Moustache
One of the strangest additions to our list is that of Moustache, a black poodle in the French army. While parts of his story are believed to be fictitious, his most heroic moments occurred at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. Moustache detected and cornered an Austrian spy, then carried back the French flag to camp after losing a leg. Moustache received a medal for his amazing bravery.

9. Sarbi - Afghanistan
A black lab named Sarbi became only the 2nd Australian animal to receive the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' purple cross, the nation's most prestigious animal bravery award. Sarbi was deployed as a bomb-detecting dog in September 2008 when her unit was hit by Taliban militants. Nine soldiers, including Sarbi's handler, were wounded in the attack. Sarbi was separated from the unit and survived a full year inside the Taliban heartland before being found at a remote patrol base in northeastern Uruzgan and reunited with her handler.

10. Sallie - Civil War
This hero dog on our list is Sallie, a brindle Staffordshire Terrier who served as the regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Sallie was raised in the regiment and accompanied the soldiers into battle, always on the front line. At Gettysburg, Sallie became separated from the regiment. Troops found her three days later guarding the bodies of the wounded and dead. Sallie was later killed at the Battle at Hatcher's Run. In 1890, the surviving veterans dedicated a monument at Gettysburg with the likeness of Sallie.

11. Nemo - Vietnam War
The Vietnam War also had its share of war dog heroes. One in particular was Nemo the German Shepherd. Nemo was paired with Airman Second Class Robert Thorneburg. On December 3rd, 1966, while on patrol, Thorneburg was shot in the shoulder and Nemo was shot in the muzzle. The bullet entered under Nemo's right eye and exited through his mouth. Nemo ignored the wound and heroically charged the 4 gunmen, allowing Thorneburg time to call for reinforcements. Both man and dog were rushed to medical treatment, and Nemo was sent back to the U.S. for treatment, where he was able to live out the rest of his life a hero.

12. Judy
Another incredible British war dog was Judy, the English Pointer. Judy's entire story can be read here, for it is far too long and incredible for this meager synopsis. Judy was saved by Frank Williams in a POW camp, but she soon returned the favor. I will summarize Judy's bravery by saying she survived a torpedoed ship, found fresh water that saved soldiers' lives, was a prisoner of war - twice, survived another torpedo attack, rescued soldiers from the sinking ship, attacked prison guards when they beat the POWs, and fought tigers and alligators. Yes, you read that right - tigers and alligators. Judy and Williams were freed from the camp in 1945. Once home, Judy received the Dickin Medal for her tremendous bravery. Judy and Williams remained inseparable for the rest of their lives.

13. Gander
Gander was a member of The Royal Rifles of Canada during the World War II. The unit was sent to Hong Kong Island to defend it from Japanese attacks. Gander's first act of bravery was charging a group of Japanese soldiers as they approached some wounded Canadian soldiers. This act most likely saved their lives. Unfortunately, Gander's final act of heroism cost him his life. During the Battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island on Dec. 19, 1942, Gander picked up a grenade that landed next to a group of soldiers and carried it away. The grenade exploded, instantly killing him. Gander saved the lives of many soldiers that day, and on Oct. 27, 2000, he was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal for his extreme act of courage.

14. Lex - Iraq War
This amazing dog showed his loyalty and bravery in the midst of battle. While deployed in Fallujah with his handler, Cpl. Dustin Lee, the pair were struck by a mortar. Lee was fatally wounded in the attack. Lex, his faithful companion, was struck by shrapnel, but managed to crawl over to Lee and lie on top of him, protecting Lee until medics arrived. Other Marines reportedly had to pull Lex away so Lee could be attended. Although some shrapnel remains in Lex's body, he recovered. Lex was allowed to retire honorably and live out the rest of his days with Leeโ€™s family, who adopted the heroic dog.

15. Sinbad
Sinbad was a member of the Coast Guard from 1938 to 1949. This adopted mixed-breed dog became a full-fledged member of the Guard, serving on the Coast Guard cutter ship Campbell. Sinbad was even on board when the ship was attacked and severely damaged by the Nazi submarine U-606. Sinbad stayed on board the ship while it was getting towed and repaired, even as most other soldiers transferred to other vessels. Sinbad retired and in 1951 was laid to rest at the Barnegat Light Station beneath the station's flagstaff.

16. The Dobermans of World War II
Our next hero, or should I say heroes, consisted of multiple Doberman dogs that accompanied soldiers in the Pacific assaults during World War II. Marine line officer William Putney, who fought side by side with these dogs, said "These dogs lived in foxholes with their men. Their handlers killed 301 enemy soldiers with the loss of only one of my men on patrols. So the fact that these dogs were killed instead of us and kept us from ever being ambushed or surprised at night makes them heroes in my mind." The first canine casualty was Kurt. Kurt was leading troops on a mission in Guam, when his amazing sense of smell and hearing alerted the troops of surprise attack by the Japanese. Just as the unit took cover, Japanese mortars and grenades rained on the soldiers. Kurt was fatally wounded. His handler, Private First Class Allen S. Jacobson, tried to save Kurt all night, and was so tired after Kurt passed, that he put his head on the dog and fell asleep.


17. Sam
Sam was a heroic dog deployed to help the conflict in Bosnia-Hertzegovina. In 1998, Sam gave chase to an armed gunman who opened fire on civilians in the town. Sam caught the man and took him down, allowing his handler, Sergeant Iain Carnegie, time to disarm the gunman. Six days later, a mob armed with crowbars, club and stones, surrounded a group of nearly 50 Serbs. Sam bravely fought back the mob countless times until reinforcements could arrive. Sam was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal for his acts of valor and bravery.

18. Bob
Bob, a Collie mix, has a special distinction bestowed upon him. During World War II, Bob led more forays into German territory than any other U.S. soldier, human or canine.

19. Beauty
The final dog on our list was a pioneer. Beauty, a wire-haired terrier, served during the Second World War, and is considered to be the first rescue dog.

20. Cairo - Operation Neptune Spear
Cairo โ€“ Operation Neptune Spear. Modern day U.S. military dogs are used primarily for sniffing out and detecting hidden or buried explosives (IEDs) in the Middle East. One modern military dog in particular, Cairo, has the unique distinction of being the only military personnel named from Operation Neptune Spear โ€“ the covert military operation that took down Osama Bin Laden. Cairo is a Belgian Malinois and a canine member of the elite Navy SEALs.

Cairo was part of the Navy SEAL team that stormed Osama Bin Laden's compound in May of 2011 in Pakistan. Cairo helped secure the outside perimeter of the building and was tasked with tracking down anyone who tried to escape, as well as being an alert of any incoming interference. He was outfitted with a special vest that included tactical equipment. Though little is known about the exact actions of Cairo during the operation, he was the only military dog to be part of one of the biggest military operations in modern history.

21. Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin was a German Shepherd discovered on the battlefield by soldier Lee Duncan, and he might top the list of most prolific dogs to ever grace the silver screen: Yes, this one tops even Lassie. He starred in a total of thirty movies, including Where the North Begins (1923), The Lightning Warrior (1931) and The Law of the Wild (1934). Some might have heard of The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, which ran from 1954 to 1959. Yes, the Rin-Tin-Tin in the television series is, in fact, directly descended from the original Rin Tin Tin mentioned all the way up there. His line continues today in the form of A Rinty for Kids Foundation, an organisation providing service dogs to children at no charge. More information about the foundation can be found here.

22. Zanjeer
The March 1993 Mumbai bombings shook the world and left behind a toll of 257 people dead and 1, 400 injured. In the middle of it all, there was a Labrador known as Zanjeer โ€“ meaning "chain" in Hindi and named for the Hindi movie of the same name. Zanjeer had saved countless lives, and had detected around 600 detonators and almost 6, 500 rounds of ammunition โ€“ added to a reported 3, 329 kg of explosive material. Zanjeer passed away on the 16th of November 2000 from bone cancer and received a state funeral.

23. Cooper
20 year-old Corporal Kory Duane Wiens followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and namesake, a military canine handler during the Korean War, when he became a member of the 94th Mine Dog Detachment, 5th Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Brigade, serving in Iraq in 2007. Wiens' canine comrade was a yellow Lab named Cooper, and they formed a closely bonded team. They worked together to find firearms, ammunition and explosives. While on patrol in Muhammad Sath, Iraq on July 6th, 2007, Wiens and Cooper were killed by an improvised explosive device. Their remains were buried together in Wiens' hometown of Dallas, OR.

BRAVEST MILITARY DOGS - This photo courtesy of Vietnam War Era Tumblr
24. Kaiser
A German Shepherd who accompanied Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar in Vietnam, Kaiser experienced his fair share of action. He participated in more than 30 combat patrols and 12 major operations. Tragically, he was attacked during an ambush in 1966 and died trying to lick Salazar's hand.

BRAVEST MILITARY DOGS - This photo courtesy of
25. Philly
Serving at Montfaucon, Nantillois, Troyon and LaGrande Montagne during World War I after being smuggled into France, the stray female mixed breed was so good at keeping guard that she had a bounty of 50 duetschemarks on her head, placed by the Germans.

BRAVEST MILITARY DOGS - This photo courtesy of
26. Conan โ€“ Syria
A special operations military working dog named Conan has more grit and guts than most people ever do. Named after comedian Conan O'Brien, the Belgian Malinois works in the US 1st SFOD-D. One of his most famous achievements took place during the Barisha raid in Syria - the one that brought an end to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS. During the mission, Conan chased Baghdadi into a tunnel, where he detonated his suicide vest. Conan was injured during the raid, he has since returned to duty. Many soldiers and citizens have petitioned for Conan to be awarded the Purple Heart medal, but so far the ban on military canine awards has not changed.


This article is proudly presented by



Mele Mathieson
Dina Fantegrossi

Military Working Dogs are Primarily Trained for:
Explosive detection
Narcotics detection
Search & Rescue
Guard Duty
Scout and Patrol

Traits of a Military Working Dogs:
Acute sense of smell, hearing and vision

Drive to prey and hunt




Easily trained

Motivated to please

1. Dogs have been in combat with US soldiers during every major conflict, but they were not officially recognized until WWII
The first dog to ever earn rank was Sergeant Stubby. Sergeant Stubby of the 102nd Infantry, Yankee Division went from mascot to hero during WWI after being smuggled into battle by Private J. Robert Conway. Stubby went on to detect enemy gas, bark out warnings when rival troops were near and locate the wounded on the battlefield. By the start of WWII, the military had recognized the value canine soldiers could bring and began using them primarily for recon. Stubby forged the way for all canine soldiers who followed and remains a symbol of military bravery and heroism to this day.

2. They are trained in bomb, weapon and drug detection, tracking, and to attack the enemy
Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX has been training sentry dogs since 1958. details the manpower and dogpower that goes into training the amazing pups of the Department of Defense Military Working Dogs Training School (DoD MWD) at Lackland. Today, more than 1,000 dogs are trained at any given time by a staff of 125 from all branches of military service. The complex training techniques are designed to utilize the dogs' natural gifts for focus and aggression to their advantage. German Shepherds and Labradors can detect weapons, bombs, gases and drugs more accurately than any available military equipment.

3. There are about 2500 dogs in active service today and about 700 deployed overseas
Military dogs play an integral role in the current overseas conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Stewart Hilliard, Chief of Military War Dog evaluation and training at Lackland Air Force Base told San Antonio Magazine in 2013, These dogs are among our most effective counter measures against terrorists and explosives.

4. 85% of military working dogs are purchased from Germany and the Netherlands.
The 2013 article "Canines in Combat" from San Antonio Magazine notes that the bloodlines of these dogs go back hundreds of years, making these pups literally "born for the job." The Air Force Security Center, Army Veterinary Corps, and the 341st Training Squadron are combining their efforts here in the States to breed suitable dogs for military service. Currently the other 15% of working dogs are USA born and bred, and the military hopes to increase this number.

5. Dogs are extremely valuable, and not just for their service.
According to retired Air Force K9 Handler, Louis Robinson, a fully trained bomb detection dog is likely worth over $150,000. But really, these animals are priceless. With an average of 98% accuracy in their detection skills, the peace of mind they provide to the troops is immeasurable. Robinson resides in Phoenix, AZ and runs Robinson Dog Training. He is using the extensive skills he learned as a Military Police K9 handler to help civilian dogs learn basic obedience, search and rescue, therapy skills and advanced protection training.

6. Only about 50% make it through training.
Military working dogs are not just chosen for their breeding or the keenness of their sense of smell, they must possess several other qualities. They must be free of physical issues like hip dysplasia and be highly reward motivated. Trainers at Lackland use mostly toys like Kongs that can be hidden to represent bombs, but treats are also utilized. Suitable dogs for military service must also be able to attack on command. Pups have actually been dropped from the program due to extreme stress at having to bite a human. Military dogs must have just the right level of aggression and excitability.

7. They are not all German Shepherds.
When we think about military dogs, muscular German Shepherds tend to come to mind. But several different breeds have shown patriotic heroism over the years. Many branches use the highly trainable Labrador Retriever. The elite US Navy SEALS use the Belgian Malinois, a breed similar to the German Shepherd, but smaller. These dogs are incredibly compact and fast with a sense of smell 40 times greater than that of a human. Their small stature make them ideal for parachuting and repelling missions with their handlers. The SEALS were accompanied by a Belgian Malinois named Cairo during their raid on Osama Bin Laden in 2013.

8. They can get PTSD.
Just like their human brothers and sisters in arms, pup soldiers are susceptible to the horrors of PTSD. War dogs experience severe emotional trauma during deployment, and for some it becomes too much. Gunner, a Marine bomb sniffing dog became so skittish and unpredictable during active duty that he was declared "surplus" by the military and released from service. Gunner was adopted by the family of Corporal Jason Dunham who was killed near the Syrian border in 2004. He and the Dunhams are working on healing together.

9. They mourn the loss of their handler and vice versa.
In Rebecca Frankel's book, War Dogs she explores the remarkable bond that develops between service dog and handler. One such pair was Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Ashley and "Sirius". They were the number one team during training at Yuma military base, but tragically Josh was killed by an IED just two months after deploying to Afghanistan. "Sirius" at first refused to take commands from his new handler and showed significant signs of agitation at the loss of his partner. Such stories are all too common among canine and handler teams. If a dog of war is lost in combat, he or she is honored by the entire squad. Feeding dishes are symbolically placed upside down and a poem called Guardians of the Night is read in their honor.

10. Until November 2000, military dogs were euthanized or abandoned after retirement.
Before this time service dogs were considered "military surplus equipment" and deemed unfit to adjust to civilian life. These heroes were thrown away or put down instead of honored. President Clinton passed "Robby's Law" in 2000 which allows handlers and their families first dibs at adopting military animals at the end of their useful service. The dogs are next offered to law enforcement, then adoptive families. Organizations like place these retired heroes with suitable families and ensure they are given the honorable discharge they deserve. There are currently long waiting lists of civilians who want to give these veterans a loving home in which to retire.

11. 2700+ Military Dogs Serving the US Army
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there are approximately 2,700 active-duty military working dogs in the U.S. Armed Forces. They are deployed around the world, with a large number serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. All military working dogs and their handlers are trained at the 341st Training Squadron located at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Each year approximately 425 Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine students are trained to be handlers, 185 dogs are trained and certified to detect explosives, and 85 dogs are trained for patrol and drug detection.

12. U.S. War Dogs Memorial
There is a U.S. War Dogs Memorial. Holmdel, New Jersey is home to the United States War Dogs Memorial. The memorial's centerpiece is a bronze statue of a Vietnam War soldier and his dog. The memorial pays tribute to all of America's war dogs, past present, and future. Dogs are more than man's best friend - they are heroes! To learn more about military working dogs, visit The United States War Dogs Association website. If you are interested in adopting a retired MWD.

13. United States Military Working Dogs are part of the Air Force?
It may come as a surprise, but the United States Air Force is the executive agent for the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program. The 341st Training Squadron, based out of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, is responsible for procuring, training, and assigning all K-9 dogs from the MWD program, and escort them all over the world following their training.

14. Every new puppy goes through a 5-month military dog foster program!
At the age of eight weeks, future military dogs are placed in dedicated foster homes in the San Antonio / Austin area. Foster volunteers are charged with training and nurturing puppies over a five-month commitment period, from 6 weeks to 7 months old. During this time, puppies are raised in secure, loving homes, stimulated with lots of playtime and healthy treats, and given the opportunity to socialize with all kinds of different environments and people. Interested in becoming a puppy foster parent someday? To qualify for the foster program, foster must live within a 2-hour drive to Lackland Air Force Base, you must have a well-maintained back yard with a fence, and you must not have any children younger than 5 years of age.

15. Sniffer dogs used for detection are usually sporting dog breeds
Dogs have a literally superhuman sense of smell, with ten to twenty times the number of receptors on their nose. With little or no wind, a dog has the ability to detect intruders using its senses of smell and hearing. Many military working dogs are trained for one purpose: sniffing out explosives or narcotics, but not both. Dogs do not need to be close to detect a bomb or IED inside a vehicle-often dogs can signal a bomb's presence from 50 feet away. By doing so, these heroic dogs can approach and search an object, without putting handlers or fellow soldiers in harm's way. Dog breeds used for sniffing and odor detection are usually sporting breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. However, Poodles and Jack Russell Terriers are also commonly enlisted for their excellent noses.

16. Multi-use and Security MWDs are usually shepherding breeds
German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois make the top of the list for tactical MWDs. While German Shepherds are larger and more muscular, the Malinois does not lack in the strength department. Their smaller size is perfect for tactics involving parachuting and rappelling. Over the years, the compact Malinois has become a favorite of the US Navy Seals and other elite forces around the world.

17. MWDs receive highly valuable training, with bomb detection training worth over $150,000
While the average cost for training a military dog ranges from $20,000 to $40,000, preparing a dog to be an explosives detection expert may cost over $150,000. Typical training scenarios might include having to detect explosives in a caravan of 10 or more vehicles, with decoys such as sausages and bacon set up to create distracting stimuli. Under these conditions, a trained detection dog would be able to detect an explosive in under two minutes.

18. Only about 50% of dogs in the MWD program make it through training
Dog noses save lives, but the dogs they are attached to must also be absolutely obedient, disciplined, and loyal. In addition, the dogs must be free of physical issues, such as hip dysplasia. Today there are over 1,600 Military Working Canines working at US and Allied installations around the world.

19. Every military working dog is a non-commissioned officer, in tradition
Military working dogs are always one rank higher than their handlers. NCO status was originally given to military dogs as a custom to prevent handlers from abusing or mistreating their dogs. These honorary ranks reinforce the dog and handler bond as a sacred, respectful relationship.

20. Dogs have been jumping out of planes since the 1940s
Did you know that dogs have been parachuting since the 1940s? Check out this amazing archival footage via Smithsonian, showing how parachuting dogs were used to rescue plane crash victims in the Arctic.

21. Field medics are being trained to handle K-9 injuries in the heat of battle
Until recently, medics have not been able to immediately treat MWDs injured in the line of duty, but the latest in medical training protocols have begun to focus more on MWDs as treatable soldiers in the heat of battle. Modern medics have to get past the initial thought that they do not know what to do with a dog. We try to help teach that a dog is essentially a human with different anatomy. There are some slight differences but we would treat them the same as an injured Soldier.

22. The Most Decorated MWD in WW2 was named Chips!
Chips was a German Shepherd - Collie - Husky Mix who Served in the 3rd Infantry Division with his handler, Pvt. John P. Rowell. As DoD-trained sentry dogs, Chips would tour North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. Among Chip's greatest exploits was the time that he famously broke away from his handler and jumped into an Italian machine-gun nest during the invasion of Sicily. Injured from Chip's attacks, the four Italian gunners inside were forced to flee their position and were captured by US forces.

Chips successfully made it out of the altercation with a scalp wound and minor gunpowder burns. Later that day, Chip would assist in the capture of 10 more Italian soldiers. Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, eight Battle Stars, and the Purple Heart for his bravery, however, US Army policy at the time prohibited official dog commendations. Chips would later go on to meet President Eisenhower himself, although Chips did nip the President's hand when Ike went to pet him a reminder that you should not pet trained working dogs unless you are the dog's handler.

23. Legendary Dog Rin Tin Tin was actually a rescued war dog from WW1
Rin Tin Tin was found by Corporal Lee Duncan in Lorraine, France following a bombing of a German war-dog kennel in World War I. The only survivors of the blast were a litter of seven German Shepherd puppies, of which Duncan adopted two: Rin Tin Tin and his sister. Rin Tin Tin would go on to star in over 30 movies during the golden age of silent movies in the 1920s and 1930s.

24. World War II saw the first organized deployment of military dogs
Although dogs were used sparingly in previous battles and wars dating all the way back to Egypt, World War II was the first organized deployment of canine warriors.

25. In 1941, British advertisements began targeting local dog owners asking them to loan their dogs to fight for their country
Would you loan your dog? About 3,300 people across the world did!

26. A group of civilians came together on the belief that their sled dogs could effectively serve the army in a variety of functions. Together, they formed a coalition called Dogs for Defense
This group was created in 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They would become the primary training force for sentry dogs. The U.S. Army was involved in the development of this organization and encouraged dog owners across the country to donate their dogs for training.

27. The most common jobs were guard dogs, messenger dogs, scout dogs, detection dogs, assault dogs and even parachute dogs
The Army's initial canine members were trained for sentry duty. The dogs were trained to alert their handlers to any strangers in their vicinity and to attack on command. Sentries were the primary use of dogs during World War II because of the worry that enemy submarines would invade. As that threat began to diminish over time, the role of dogs in the war shifted to scouts and messenger dogs. A plan was developed to train "assault dogs" to attack enemy soldiers without any human guidance or commands. This plan, of course, failed. Perhaps the strangest use of dogs were the "Paradogs". A group of dogs who were taught how to parachute and then dropped behind enemy lines.

28. With the German's new landmine innovations, general bomb detection methods had become obsolete. Thus, detection dogs were created
Although the idea seemed strong, it was not understood at the time how sharp the canine sense of smell truly is, resulting in mostly ineffective training methods for mine detection.

29. After the war, it was discovered that dogs are actually able to pick out the chemical components within explosives
World War II paved the way for how military dogs are used in in the modern era Now that we know more about dogsโ€™ behavior and their acute sense of smell, we now deploy dogs in a much more effective manner.

30. There are about 2,500 war and military service dogs in service today, with about 700 serving at any given time overseas
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Reese and his military working dog Grek wait at a safe house before conducting an assault against insurgents in Buhriz, Iraq, April 10, 2007.

31. Dogs have fought alongside American forces in every conflict since the Revolutionary War, but only officially since WWII
Although the practice of using dogs to augment military forces dates back to ancient Greece, no military in history has used them as extensively, or as effectively as the United States. Military service dogs have served in combat alongside US soldiers during every major conflict since the birth of the nation, but they were not officially recognized until World War II. Dogs were mostly used as message carriers and sentries during the first few conflicts but nowadays, theyโ€™re trained to perform a wide-range of highly-specialized tasks.

32. Puppy development specialist is a real job
The Military Working Dog Breeding Program on Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio provides working dogs to every service branch and numbers among the largest military service dog breeding programs in the world. The U.S. military actually has puppy development specialists. They work with the carefully-selected puppies from the time they are born until they begin their training at around 6-7 months of age. They help them develop basic social skills and help get the puppies ready for the jobs they will perform later in life.

33. During WWII, The USMC planned to use dogs to invade Japan
The United States Marine Corps officially began its war dog program in 1942 and during WWII, the Marine Corps trained and fielded the experimental dog units across the Pacific theater. There was even a program that aimed to train a battalion of dogs to lead Marines in a possible amphibious assault on the Japanese mainland.

34. The Marine Corps' first official mascot was also the USMC's highest-ranking war dog
The first mascot of the USMC was an English Bulldog named Jiggs. Jiggs enlisted in the Marines in 1922 and quickly climbed through the ranks, attaining the rank of Sergeant Major in 1925. Sgt. Maj. Jiggs died in 1928 and his death was mourned throughout the Marine Corps.

35. Over 90% of retired MWD's are adopted by their former handlers
If the handler is unable or unwilling to take the animal in, the Department of Defense helps the dogs find willing families, and between 2012-2014, the DoD adopted out 1,312 dogs to individuals and 252 to law enforcement agencies.

36. They do it all for the Kong
War dogs are selected for military service based in part on their love of a ball or a Kong dog toy, which can be hidden to simulate a bomb or drugs. A military working dog has to really, really want the Kong in order to be selected because this reward is going to be part of their "paycheck" for years to come - a handler's heartfelt praise is the other half. The dog's love of the Kong is absolutely crucial in motivating the animal to work as hard as it needs to in order to save lives in combat.

37. They are the ultimate psychiatrists
They study us, observe us, and they smell even minute changes in our very chemistry. They learn to predict us. And they seem to know when their people are having a bad day. There is a saying among handlers of military working dogs: "Everything runs down-leash."

38. Every military working dog is a noncommissioned officer โ€“ in tradition at least
Some say the custom was to prevent handlers from mistreating their dogs - hence, a dog is always one rank higher than its handler. We offer a sincere thank you to all of the nation's veterans, both two and four-legged alike!

39. Soldier dogs believe in magic
If they did not, they may not be the lifesavers they are. The main job for military dogs in today's wars is sniffing out IEDs, which are the number one killer in Afghanistan. But how does a dog get to know the difference between an explosive and an interesting-smelling rock? Magic, of a sort. A dog's early encounters associating a scent with a reward are all about the surprising appearance of a Kong that seems to spring right out of the scent itself. Trainers hide a Kong toy or ball somewhere, and place a few drops of a scent in the area. When the dog hits the scent, he thinks, "Whoa! I have never smelled this before!" and shows a tiny change of behavior, perhaps stopping or wagging or tilting his head.

At that moment, a trainer throws the ball so it lands right on the source of the odor, and the dog is cheered on for his "feat." This happens a few more times, placing the odor in various spots and having a ball "magically" land on it when the dog successfully sniffs the odor. Many dogs learn extremely rapidly to associate an odor and a ball. Eventually they are weaned from this and get the ball reward in a different way. That dogs can believe the scent of something like potassium chlorate magically creates a bouncing Kong is just one of those things that makes them so loveable and endearing.

40. Not all soldier dogs are big, tough warriors
Sure, breeds like German shepherds and Belgian Malinois are the most common war dogs these days, but affable Labrador retrievers play a major role as sniffer dogs in Afghanistan. And there are also some very little dogs in the military. There was Jack Russell terrier, Lars J274, on a nuclear submarine as he sniffed around for explosives last summer. He was a jaunty little fellow with a Napoleon complex. Submariners would laugh has he trotted down the narrow walkways, but he did not care. Inside, he is a big dog with a big attitude.

41. Dogs are the ultimate anthropologists
They study us. They observe us. They smell changes in our very chemistry. They learn to predict us. And they seem to know when their people are having a bad day. Rex L274 was a big, sensitive German shepherd. He had failed out of aggression training because anytime he bit someone wearing protective gear during practice, and they yelled or screamed in response, he immediately let go and seemed to look concerned and sad. So his career path changed, and he became a highly trained off-leash bomb sniffer.

His sensitivity to the people around him played out in the form of becoming a sort of unofficial therapy dog wherever he went. He'd always find the one soldier who was having a hard day and hang out with them. His favorite therapy was to cheer up down soldiers by getting them to play with a water bottle. After all, he liked playing with water bottles, so it would seem natural that they would too. He'd run up and bonk them with a water bottle - empty or full, it did not matter. Or he'd sit next to him crunching the bottle and periodically banging it against the soldier with the blues. Eventually the soldier would take the bait, and a grand game of tug-of-war or a big chase would ensue.

42. Soldier dog names can be downright embarrassing to their handlers
Dogs are named by their breeders, who are hail from places like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands, and Germany. There are plenty of regal or at least normal names, like Rex, Nero, and Rocky. And then there are the unfortunate or oddball ones. Imagine being downrange in a life or death situation, and shouting for "Baby Cakes!" "Baby Bear!" "Busty!" or "Moo!" Yes, those are real military working dog names. Male dogs sometimes have female names, like Kitty, or Freida, and vice-versa.

43. Soldier dogs are still officially considered equipment by the Defense Department
Most handlers consider their dogs their best friends, but to the DOD, military working dogs are still officially equipment. There is some fantastic legislation in Congress right now that seeks to change this status.




TRAINING MILITARY WORKING DOGS - U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Hunter Gullick, dog handler, Provost Marshal's Office, K9 Section, Marine Corps Base, Camp Smedley D. Butler, poses with his Military Working Dog (MWD) while training aboard Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, Oct. 5, 2017. (U.S. Marine/Rebecca L. Floto)
This article is proudly presented by


Sara Ohlms

The Department of Defense has set up several Military Working Dog programs, including an MWD Veterinary Service and an MWD Breeding Program. Today, the 341st Training Squadron at the Lackland Air Force base is dedicated to training war dogs and their handlers.

It currently has more than 1,000 dogs in training, and has trained tens of thousands more since it opened in 1958. It is the largest military dog school in the world. Trainers come from nearly every branch of the military and have extensive experience with combat situations. They are able to use this experience to assess and nurture a dog's combat readiness and natural ability.


While some breeds do respond better to military training than others, war dogs are selected on an individual basis. Dogs fit for the military are as physically healthy as possible, exceptionally brave, fiercely loyal, and reward-motivated.

They must possess calm dispositions overall, but also have the right amount of excitability in order to be assertive in emergency situations. Only about half of all potential war dogs are able to complete their training. Many are unable to handle the stress of even simulated combat: some puppies are especially distressed at the idea of having to bite a human and are pulled from training as a result.


For the most part, training revolves around the dog's personal drive. The military needs highly motivated dogs who seek out treats or toys with determination and focus. Training programs also develop the dog's obedience, mental stability in changing environments, and the strength and effectiveness of their biting grip.

While the Department of Defense handles most of the procuring and training of war dogs, a select number of exceptionally high-drive dogs are supplied by military contractors. Such dogs are known as multi-purpose canines, or MPCs. These are the ones who parachute out of airplanes, rappel from helicopters, and work with Special Ops teams like the Navy SEALs. Throughout training and tours, military working dogs and their handlers form profound bonds. In the event of a handler's death, the dogs are known to mourn and have trouble adjusting to new partnerships.

Military working dogs are trained to do tough jobs under harsh conditions, but they are still dogs. While their training is specialized, some aspects are universal and will apply no matter what you are trying to teach your dog. These dogs can sniff out bombs buried underground, sniff out drugs hidden in ceiling tiles, take down a man three times their size, and track a person long after they are gone, to find criminal suspects or lost children. As a handler paired up with an explosive-detection dog, my job was to train him, maintain his skills, keep him healthy, and make sure he got exercise.

1. You have to build a relationship
The first thing you do upon meeting your new MWD is begin to build rapport. If you take home a brand new puppy, you begin training by establishing a relationship with the dog. With so many dogs in a unit's kennel, handlers take turns dropping food pans for the dogs twice a day. But when a handler partners with a new dog, it is a good idea to let that handler drop their dog's food for a few days to establish a good bond. The dog begins to associate the handler with good things. While our dogs weren't trained to be mean, they are not the friendliest dogs either. They have a serious job to do, and they are serious dogs.

2. Groom your dog every day
Grooming your dog helps build the relationship, keeps the dog clean and healthy, and lets you check them over from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail for any problems. With hair covering most of them, dogs can have serious issues developing that you can not see until you brush them. If your dog is running around in wooded areas, check in their ears, their paws, and in between their paw pads for ticks. Even with preventive medication, ticks can bite dogs and infect them with multiple diseases that can be devastating or deadly. Even a small cut on the paw can turn into something bigger if not treated properly, and dogs that do not feel good are not good students.

3. Consistency is key
During this rapport-building time, start laying the foundations for the training that you want to do with your dog. Don't let them get away with things that you won't accept later. Reward good behavior with praise, attention, play, or treats. Once training begins, consistency is going to be key to getting good results. If you are training the dog to sit, set the dog up to succeed by training in the same area every time. Keep your voice the same. Do not change the way you say the command. Do not give the command unless you are prepared to reward.

4. Training takes time
You can not rush dog training. Some dogs pick things up faster than others. Military working dogs, or MWDs, are trained for four to seven months in basic skills before they are officially called an MWD. If your dog is not grasping basic tasks, you can not move on to the more advanced. Basic obedience (sit, down, stay) is the foundation of all further training. Take your time to master the basics, and refresh them from time to time. MWDs are professionals with years of experience, and they get obedience refresher training almost every day. It is much easier to maintain proficiency than it is to fix a problem that you have let slide for too long.

5. Dogs have bad days too
Say you have been training your dog for weeks. He is performing well, and then one day he just refuses to work for you. He won't sit. He seems bored, antsy, tired, or just lazy. Do not get mad, and do not continue to correct the dog if it is not working. Dogs have their bad days, too. Sometimes they just do not want to work. If you try to force it, you will become frustrated and angry, which hardly ever leads to good results. Recognize that there might be a medical issue at play. Sick dogs are not usually enthusiastic students.

During an evaluation at my last base, a dog would not stay in the sit. The handler could not get the dog to stay after multiple corrections. The evaluator took a close look and saw that the dog was positioned on an ant hill and had fire ants biting his legs. Continuing to correct the dog in that situation would be ineffective and would harm the rapport between dog and handler. Recognize that your dog is a living, breathing creature that has feelings and emotions.

6. Dogs need to have fun
Recognize that dogs are living, breathing creatures; they need to have fun. If the dog only ever sees you for training, you are missing a big part of the relationship. Take your dog out and let him run, play with toys, lie in the sun, take a break, and just be a dog. It will make for a happy dog that wants to please you by doing the right thing when training. In a strong dog team, the dog's desire to please the handler provides as much motivation as the toy or the treat.

7. Not every dog is going to be able to learn every task
Between buying carefully selected dogs from Europe and breeding their own at Lackland Air Force Base, the military goes through a lot of dogs. Not every dog makes it as an MWD. They fail out for a variety of reasons, from health issues to behavioral issues. Some dogs just are not cut out for the type of work that MWDs do. We had a dog that did not want to bite people. If your dog just is not getting it, it might be the dog. While you probably are not training your dog to bite people, you might find that your dog won't sit, drop the ball or won't stay for longer than a second. Keep in mind that some breeds of dogs are known for their willingness to learn and others are not. Do not adopt a working dog breed and keep it inside all day without exercise. That is how houses get destroyed. Do your research and adopt a dog that is going to fit in with your lifestyle and not a dog that you saw in a movie and you think looks cool.




MILITARY DOGS RETIREMENT: ADOPTION, RESCUE & SUPPORT - Washington District of Columbia United States - Sgt. Chesty XIII, official mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps, right, stares down his successor Recruit Chesty, left, during training at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., March 20, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps/Dengrier Baez)

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For decades, dogs have served side-by-side in combat with U.S. soldiers. They detect explosives and weapons and even root out enemy forces. In fact, one canine hero even participated in the raid of Osama bin Laden's home in Pakistan. Military dogs assist on patrols, leap out of helicopters with Navy SEALs and save countless lives. But what happens when their careers are over?

Combat Canines Left Overseas
As recent as the late 1990s, military working dogs (MWD) that were retired from service due to age or medical reasons were considered "surplus equipment," no longer part of the military and ineligible for transport home at taxpayers' expense. It was often assumed these expertly trained dogs would never adapt to civilian life. As a result, they were often euthanized or turned over to foreign allies in combat zones. The public gradually became aware of these tragedies after one military handler rallied to bring his canine partner Robby home, only to meet with defeat and see the dog euthanized.


As a result, "Robby's Law" was enacted in 2000, requiring that MWDs fit for adoption be made available to previous handlers, law enforcement or families that met qualifying criteria. Even then, discharged handlers in the United States had to come up with thousands of dollars to transport dogs in combat zones back home. Mission K9 Rescue, a nonprofit organization, solicited donations to help rescue and reunite these dogs with their owners. Even private citizens helped out as a way to repay these human and canine heroes for their service. Finally, the passage of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act means retired dogs overseas now get a ticket home to the U.S., and their handlers get priority when it comes to adopting them.

Bringing Canine Heroes Home
Today, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, serves as both a training facility for military dogs and the U.S. headquarters for dogs returning from service. Three types of dogs are available for adoption here: young dogs that do not pass the aptitude test for serving in the military - 50% do not qualify, older dogs that have finished their military stint, and those who have been retired early due to illness or injury. Dogs returning from service tend to be large breeds like German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Labrador retrievers or mixes - breeds that may have conditions such as arthritis or other medical issues. Like their human counterparts, some dogs may also show signs similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, so they are screened to make sure they have a temperament that can manage family life and do not have aggressive tendencies.


Dogs not deemed fit for family life are generally channeled into work with law enforcement or the TSA, where they can put their training to good use rather than being euthanized. Still, more than 90% of returning MWDs go home to live with their former handlers. Occasionally, when a handler is lost in battle, the handler's family may choose to adopt the dog. Others are available for adoption to private citizens, but there is a long waiting list. Applicants are carefully screened to find the right match for the right dogs. Some MWDs, for example, adjust better in homes without cats, children or other dogs. Other organizations also bring home stray dogs befriended by service people in war zones. Although these dogs did not serve in a military capacity, they did provide emotional support. In either case, reuniting dogs of war with their military companions can help both adjust to life outside the trenches.

How You Can Show Appreciation for Military Dogs
There are plenty of ways to honor the military dogs and show gratitude for their service. Here are four easy ways to thank military dogs from afar.

Donate Care Package Items - Since 2003, the US War Dogs Association has been sending care packages to dog teams around the world. The packages have items for both people and military dogs. We mail out care packages every day. Some boxes are from items that were donated by individuals or other organizations like pet-walking companies or grooming businesses, and they will do a little fundraising, and then we start making boxes. We supplement what is not in the care package. You can donate items for these care packages, too. Some of the items on their wish list for the dogs include K9 Advantix II flea, tick and mosquito prevention treatment, oatmeal dog shampoo, like Buddy Wash original dog shampoo and conditioner, and dog toothpaste and dog toothbrushes, like the Nylabone advanced oral care dog dental kit. For more information on how you can contribute to the US War Dogs Association's donation program, check out their official wish list.

Adopt a Military K-9 - While military dog handlers are given priority when it comes to adopting retired military dogs, they all still need to find forever homes. "They deserve a chance on a couch a chance to be a dog and that is what our facility does, we bring them into our care, and we help them," says Kristen Maurer, cofounder and president of Mission K9 Rescue, an organization based in Texas that works to rescue, rehabilitate, reunite and re-home working military dogs. We un-handle them because they have had handlers their entire lives, and they were trained to work their entire life. They lived in kennels, isolated from other dogs, and they came out and worked and trained. Maurer's organization rehabilitates military dogs so they can become suitable for adoption into a regular home environment. The adoption process starts with an application, which you can fill out on their site. The wait for a military dog can be long, but it is definitely worth it. Adopt one - they are grateful and they are loyal all day long.

Help Fund Essential Health Programs - Military dogs train like athletes their entire lives. So, they have a lot of health issues with the spine, hips, knees and those kinds of things, so they require a lot of medical care upon retirement. The dogs are cut off from government support when they retire, making assistance from nonprofit groups critical. Aside from distributing care packages, US War Dogs administers a number of medical programs for retired dogs of the military, including a free pet meds program - 802 dogs are currently covered, wheel carts for dogs who can no longer walk, and an emergency medical reimbursement of 500 dollars for injured dogs who need to go to the emergency room. Through their newly introduced program, Project: Thunder Storm, they distribute calming products with a veterinarian's approval, including a ThunderShirt sport anxiety and calming aid for dogs, ThunderEssence dog calming mist and calming chews to dogs in need.

Write to Your Elected Officials - Providing veterinary care for dogs and administering health programs is expensive. Last year, we did close to 200 thousand dollars in medical expenses. Military dog handlers, veterans and rescuers say they would like to see dogs receive health care that extends past retirement. Government funding would ease the financial burden for organizations and others who care for retired military dogs. If people write their federal representative that they feel military dogs should get some type of Veterans Administration benefits just like their humans, that would be something new that is currently lacking. If you are unable to give monetarily, taking a moment to write to your elected officials is a proactive way to honor these dogs. Sending items that can be included in care packages, donating money for life-saving programs, adopting a military dog and writing letters to federal representatives are acts that can make a real difference for these dogs and their handlers. Even a simple thank you can go a long way in honoring their service!










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