Canines in Combat: Dogs Serving in the Military

By Martha Michael >>>

Does your Yorkie have what it takes to be a war dog?

She sure does, says Lynn M. Hayner in an article posted by The United States War Dogs Association, Inc., a non-profit group promoting the work of military service dogs. The support provided by canines for U.S. troops is so wide-ranging, you may be surprised by some of the breeds that partner with men and women in uniform. Some of the best breeds for the business include: Doberman pinschers, bulldogs, German shepherds, boxers, and even Yorkshire terriers.
What do they do?
According to the U.S. War Dogs website, canines have been employed in warfare for centuries. Even the soldiers of the Roman Empire had dogs with armor and spiked collars walking in columns alongside them. The British Army sent dogs ahead to attack the enemy’s cavalry. As early as 55 B.C., Britain used Mastiffs to fight Caesar’s armies, and later, Napoleon had dogs who could warn of an impending attack.
Canines can sense the enemy’s location, as well as take messages back and forth from the frontlines. The United States military did not use war dogs much until about 1942. The Nazis, however, were using dogs as scouts for the infantry by then.
The littlest of them – a Yorkie named “Smoky” – served in the Philippines during WWII. He not only warned soldiers of incoming fire, he pulled telephone lines through an 8-inch pipe that was 70 feet underground so American commanders could communicate with troops.
Today these military trained dogs are able to sniff out improvised explosive devices, or IED’s, weapons mostly employed by Taliban forces. They detect mortars, find drugs and protect troops.
The U.S. Department of Defense says there are currently close to 2,700 working military dogs. Their training includes “drive building, grip development, and environmental and social stability,” according to the government agency.
In 2006, the United States War Dogs Memorial was erected in Holmdel, New Jersey. It is a bronze statue of a Vietnam War veteran kneeling next to his dog. While the memorial represents war dog teams of the Vietnam War, it also honors all United States war dogs and their handlers – past, present and future.
Since many service men and women have returned home, dogs have a new role to play. Non-profits like 4 Paws 4 Patriots provide service dogs to veterans for companionship. They partner with animal shelters and contract trainers to enable canines to meet the psychological needs of former military who return home and suffer disabilities such as PTSD.
Patriots and Paws is an all-volunteer organization in Orange County providing veterans, active military, reservists and their families some basic home furnishings, plus match up these men and women with a rescued animal for companionship. All the resources provided by the organization are free of charge to assist them as they transition into civilian life.
Military dogs are employed as therapy dogs and police K-9s at home, while they continue to aid in combat out in the field. Many non-profit groups, including the U.S. War Dogs Association, assist in adopting out these brave ones upon retirement.