Military working dogs, or war dogs, have been trained to support soldiers on the battlefield in every American conflict since the beginning of time. Although they did not receive official recognition for their work until World War II, war dogs have always had a special and important role in protecting freedom.
Animals have been used in wars for espionage, communications, and morale-boosting since the dawn of time. Many different animals have been used historically, including pigeons, bats, sea lions, insects, cats, dolphins, chickens, pigs, camels, rats, horses, and even elephants.
Although some of these animals are still in use today, man’s best friend; the dog, has served the longest of all. Dogs are invaluable tools for troops navigating dangerous and unpredictable war zones because of their superior senses and unwavering loyalty. Below are six important roles of military dogs in modern warfare;
1. They can be used as fighting dogs:
War dogs are taught to attack, subdue, and render the adversary helpless depending on their specific aptitudes. As opposed to what certain misconceptions may lead you to believe, handlers teach their dogs mostly to grab onto an enemy’s arm or leg and prevent them from running, rather than to kill them. Elite military breeds like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are reputed for their athleticism and are chosen by trainers for their aggressive personalities.
During raids, military dogs are frequently used by U.S. Special Operations forces. These fighting dogs track down and apprehend fugitives or inmates. All military dogs must be trained in controlled aggression, even though not every military dog is suited for raiding. They must be able to defend their handler on their own initiative and without being asked to do so.
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2. They can be used for transportation:
In the past, the military used dogs to haul supplies, move weapons, and deliver messages. Many times, military dogs have searched out injured soldiers, called for medical assistance by barking, or even hauled the injured to safety. During World War I, almost 10,000 dogs were employed for these uses.
3. They help keep morale high:
Dogs have served as regimental mascots in the past to boost army morale. But, even canines who aren’t mascots can help soldiers feel better. War dogs and their handlers share a close relationship; many of them sacrifice their lives to save their handlers or other soldiers.
A soldier’s morale will benefit from such an emotional connection, which also provides them with a sense of community and belonging. Although battle dogs are well-trained, they are still dogs; playtime and snuggles are a regular part of life and help troops decompress from their daily stresses and reenergize their minds.
Rex, a German shepherd who was shifted from aggressive training to bomb-sniffing due to his sensitive temperament, is one example of how dogs may increase morale. Rex’s presence in the regiment eventually started to give the soldiers comfort and even therapeutic benefits. They saw that he had a tendency to gravitate around people who were hurting or depressed. He would hit or prod them with a water bottle to get them to play with him.
Dogs have also assisted human veterans with PTSD in therapeutic settings. Due to their unwavering love, they are terrific companions and sources of emotional support for those who are psychologically troubled. PTSD Service dogs give veterans a sense of security in their homes and have even prevented many from considering suicide.
4. Dogs have been used for detection and tracking:
Dogs used to be taught to find land mines, but the strain of combat and the worry of unstable ground finally rendered them ineffective. The ability to detect bombs, drugs, weapons, and opposing soldiers, however, has been their strongest suit. Nowadays, the majority of dogs are only ever trained in one of the two detection methods—IED or drugs. The justification for this is straightforward: the better the results, the more specialized the dog. Furthermore, if a military dog were trained to search for everything and everything, it would be difficult to discern what he had located or which team to alert in response, so his barking wouldn’t convey much.
The greatest danger to these sniffer dogs has been hidden explosives, which have killed over twenty dogs since 2007.
5. Dogs are used for scouting:
Certain military working dogs receive scout dog training. Scout dogs are taught to sniff and listen for dangers up to 1,000 feet away, including inside dark tunnels. According to reports, they have detected enemy platoons lurking underwater, ambushes, and weapon caches, saving many lives.
6. Dogs are used as sentries:
Dogs are employed by the military to protect camps, storage facilities, bunkers, and gun towers at night, which is possibly their most venerable duty. By barking or growling, they can alert sleeping troops to attackers faster than a human might. They also have exceptional eyesight and hearing. During the Vietnam War, there were a lot of these sentry dogs, which prevented the loss of many important positions. According to reports, Vietcong inmates showed a tremendous deal of awe and respect for the canine sentries and even set bounties on them and their handlers.