Brave, loyal, fearless and dependable, these are but a few of the attributes used to describe our canine counterparts. Is it any wonder then that these animals have accompanied men into the heat of battle throughout history?

War dogs were commonly used by many of the early civilizations such as the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans. Canis Molossus, an extinct breed of dog named after the Molassians who inhabited the Epirus region of Greece, is commonly thought to be the ancestor of todays Mastiff breeds of dogs. For this reason Mastiff types of dogs are sometimes referred to as Molossers.

The Molassians were known for the viciousness of their hounds yet they were no match for the Mastiff of Britannia. The Romans sent many of this particular breed of Mastiff to Rome and then out to the known world. The Romans often employed attack formations made entirely of dogs. In another example of using dogs in this manner, the Lydians had a separate battalion of fighting dogs around 628 BC.

Atilla the Hun used large Molosser dogs in his battles. The Spaniards used dogs in armor that had been trained to kill and disembowel when they invaded. Irish Wolfhounds were used to attack Norman knights when they invaded Ireland. Napoleon used a great many dogs in front of his reserves. These are but a few examples of how dogs have been used in war throughout history. Not all dogs were fighting dogs however, some were used as messengers, and some were used as sentries or simply as mascots to help raise morale.

Dogs were first used for military operations in the United States during the Seminole Wars. During the American Civil War The American Pit Bull Terrier was employed to carry messages and for protection. This breed of dog was also used as a mascot and for recruiting posters during the 1st World War.

The Marine Corps became interested in using dogs in 1935 after observing Central American guerrilla soldiers using them as sentries to alert the soldiers. Camp LeJuene was the location of the war dog-training program for the Marine Corp. Each dog started out with the rank of private and it was possible for a dog to outrank his handler. A total of seven war dog platoons were trained at Camp LeJuene.

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor the American Kennel Club and group known as Dogs for Defense began to encourage the public to donate their dogs to the Armies Quartermaster Corps. The first dog was inducted into the Army on March 13, 1942. In July of that same year the Remount Branch of the Quartermaster Corps took over the War Dog Program. Initially over thirty different breeds of dogs were accepted but in time the list was limited to German Shepards, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Farm Collies, Doberman Pinschers, and Giant Schnauzers. The training program was considered experimental in the beginning because, with the exception of sled dogs and pack dogs, training these animals for war was entirely new.

The Quartermaster corps trained both dogs and dog handlers. Most of the dog handlers were Quartermaster soldiers. The training period for the dogs themselves was 12 weeks in which time they were trained to follow basic commands. They also had to become accustomed to such things as riding in military vehicles, gas masks and gunfire. After this basic training they moved on to more specialized training depending on the job they were chosen to fulfill.

Over time as methods of fighting in wars changed so did the roles of the war dog. Lets briefly look at some of the jobs these animals are performing now.

One of the earliest military related uses of dogs was as sentries. Sentry dogs are trained to patrol with a human sentry and to raise alerts by growling or barking letting his handler know of something strange or unfamiliar on his post. Sentry dogs are especially valuable for working in the dark or when possible attack from behind or from cover is possible.
On July 1 1965 the Vietcong launched a successful attack on the Da Nang Air Base. Two days later a test program using sentry dogs was started. Forty dog teams were sent to Vietnam. These dog teams were stationed on the perimeter in front of machine gun towers and bunkers. The early detection of intruders by the dog teams allowed for the timely deployment of reinforcements. With this outstanding success the Air Force wasted no time in deploying similar dog teams to all of the bases in Vietnam and Thailand. Today, the sentry dog is still a valuable asset.

The Scout Dog is used in reconnaissance and has proven invaluable in the saving of the lives of soldiers. Scout dogs are trained to detect the presence of enemy forces or hidden booby traps. With their keen sense of smell a scout dog can detect enemy personnel up to 500 yards away or underwater with reed breathing straws. They are also trained to find explosives and weapons caches as well as hidden trip wires.

Messenger dogs proved vital during the 2nd World War. They were used whenever the need for a runner was indicated. The messenger dog is faster; more sure footed and is capable of finding his way day or night, under any type of weather condition, and over any type of terrain. He makes a tough target because of his size and speed and has a natural instinct for using the available cover. They are capable of running between two fixed positions, a fixed and moving position, or two moving positions. They were also used to string wire over short distances. There were many times during the 2nd World War when the only communication between a patrol and their base was a messenger dog. With the advances in technologies such as satellite communications the use of messenger dogs has fallen to the wayside.

The casualty dog aids the Medics in finding those wounded in battle or other circumstances. We have seen these dogs in action on many occasions perhaps the most prominent in many peoples mind being the World Trade Center site after the attacks when these dogs were employed to find the wounded among the rubble.
Although their roles have changed over the centuries one thing that has not changed about the war dog is his unwavering loyalty, his selfless sacrifice for his human partner, his unquestionable bravery, or his fierce fighting spirit. He has served with dignity and honor. Unfortunately it cannot be said that his service was always rewarded. After the 2nd world war dogs donated by their owners were to be returned. They were to be retrained to be companion animals once more. However, if they could not be de-militarized they were killed. During the Vietnam War about 5000 war dogs served in Southeast Asia. During this time 73 U.S. Servicemen working as dog handlers and 43 Military Working Dogs were killed in action. The dogs that served in Vietnam have been credited with saving 10,000 lives. As their reward for a job well done 200 of these dogs returned home with their handlers, the rest were euthanized or left behind.

While there are many memorials in honor of the War Dogs many of those who served with these animals feel that more needs to be done to honor their contributions. An effort was launched to have a national memorial erected, this effort was rejected on the basis that the dogs role in the Vietnam War was incidental. Within the National Cemetery System there are no K-9 burials or even tributes allowed. Arlington National Cemetery will not even allow a tree to be planted because to honor these animals would sully this hallowed ground. It is most likely safe to say that the men who served with those valiant Dogs Of War would have a different opinion.

Your Pets R Family 2 fully supports efforts toward a national War Dog Memorial If you would like to support the effort for a National War Dog Memorial you can start by visiting the USAWarDogs.Org for more information. There you will also find numerous links to other sites and groups with War Dog related information