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The Brief History of Dogs in Warfare

April 18, 2023

Dogs have been loyal companions to humans for centuries, and they have played a significant role in many wars throughout history. From ancient civilizations to modern-day conflicts, dogs have served in various roles, including as guards, messengers, scouts, and even as combatants.

In this blog, we will take a brief look at the history of dogs in warfare and how their roles have evolved over time.

Ancient Times:

Dogs have been used in warfare since ancient times. Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire, used dogs as guard animals in his army in the 6th century BCE.

Dogs were utilized by the Greeks and Romans for a variety of purposes, such as sentry duty and hunting. Additionally, they were trained to fight alongside armies. The Molossian breed, also known as Molossus, was a formidable dog breed specifically used for war. These dogs were trained to attack and immobilize enemy soldiers, creating a diversion for their own soldiers to attack. The dogs in the Roman army were equipped with armor and trained to bite and attack enemy soldiers.

Middle Ages (500-1500 CE):

During the Middle Ages, dogs were used as guards and protectors in castles and on estates. They were also used as hunting dogs for falconry and as retrievers for waterfowl hunting. The Mastiff and Bloodhound were commonly used during this time period. The Mastiff was used as a guard dog, while the Bloodhound was utilized as a tracking dog to hunt down criminals and fugitives.

World War I:

During World War I, dogs were used for a variety of purposes, including as messengers, sentries, and even as combatants. The German army used dogs to locate wounded soldiers on the battlefield and to lay down telephone wires on muddy ground where enemy observation was a concern. Similarly, the British army used dogs to carry messages between the front lines and the command post, as well as to transport medical supplies. Dogs also hauled machine gun and supply carts.

World War II:

During World War II, dogs played an extensive role for both the Allies and Axis powers. The Germans used dogs to guard concentration camps and to search for Jews in hiding. The Soviets used dogs to detect mines and booby traps, and even as anti-tank weapons by strapping explosives to their backs and sending them under tanks. The Americans used dogs for a variety of purposes, including locating wounded soldiers, sniffing out enemy soldiers, sentry duty, messenger duty, and scouting.

Post-World War II: Law Enforcement and Search and Rescue:

After World War II, dogs became more extensively used in law enforcement and search and rescue operations. They were employed as sentries to guard military bases and to accompany soldiers on patrols. Trained to detect enemy soldiers and booby traps.

During the 1970s, dogs were trained to detect drugs and explosives for use in customs and border protection. In the 1980s, researchers claimed that dogs could be trained to detect cancer in humans by detecting specific chemical compounds in urine or breath.

Modern-Day:

Today, dogs are utilized in a variety of roles in warfare. They serve as sentries, detecting explosives and drugs, and locating enemy soldiers searching for landmines; they can even act as combatants. All militaries rely extensively on dogs in their operations and to search for insurgents.

Law enforcement agencies worldwide also make use of dogs. They are trained to detect drugs, explosives, and other contraband, as well as to track criminals. In search and rescue operations, they help locate victims of natural disasters and other emergencies.

Throughout history, dogs have proven to be valuable assets in warfare. From ancient civilizations to modern-day conflicts, they have served in various roles, including as guards, messengers, scouts, and even as combatants. Today, dogs continue to play vital roles in military operations, law enforcement, and search and rescue efforts.

In addition to their professional roles, dogs have become beloved companions to humans, providing emotional support and assistance to people with disabilities. With their incredible sense of smell, agility, and loyalty, dogs truly earn the title of "man's best friend". As we continue to learn more about their capabilities, it's clear that their role in our lives will only continue to grow.