For centuries dogs have been our allies and companions. Since their domestication, they’ve used their innate skills and traits to work for us, guard us, and provide companionship. Because dogs have adapted to living among us so successfully, it’s no surprise to know that dogs have also been instrumental in times of war.
From battles between empires to major world wars, military or war dogs have been a definite part of our ancient through recent history. From Attila the Hun’s conquests to current missions in Afghanistan, dogs have played a significant role in saving lives and aiding in critical tasks.
West Park Animal Hospital wants to acknowledge these unsung heroes and honor the canine veterans who so valiantly work for the good of mankind.
Military Working Dogs
While the earliest account of the role of dogs in battle occured in the mid-7th century B.C., dogs weren’t officially used by the military until World War I. In fact, Sergeant Stubby, a terrier mix, was one of the most famous working dogs of his day for alerting soldiers to poisonous gas and warning them of incoming enemies.
It wasn’t until World War II that military working dogs (MWD) were recognized for their abilities and assets in combat. Today’s MWD’s are highly skilled beyond basic combat and defense, as they’re now trained to perform specialized functions that require difficult and rigorous training. It’s estimated that only 50% of these elite canines make the grade and are placed in one of the branches of the military.
Some of the amazing skills these pawed soldiers learn include:
- Sniffing out drugs, weapons, toxins, and mines
- Silence (no bark) training
- Acclimation to submarines and jets
- Training to rappel and skydive with their handlers
- Controlled aggression
- Face-to-face combat
- Sentry training (guards)
- Emotional support
Many of these dogs also serve as therapeutic animals for military men and women undergoing treatment for PTSD. Coincidentally, we now know that dogs can also develop anxiety and PTSD after combat missions, and we’re becoming better able to treat canine veterans for this condition.
While you might expect a military working dog to be trained on American soil, these exceptional canines typically come from Germany and the Netherlands (up to 85% of them, in fact). However, we’re starting to see more training operations open in the U.S.
Saluting Canine Veterans and Those Who Have Served
Dogs may not demand our appreciation, as they willingly give their dedication, skills, and loyalty to us, but we believe these brave canines deserve our respect, admiration, and commitment to their long term care for all that they’ve endured. Many canine veterans suffer emotional and physical scars as a result of their immersion in military operations.
As we learn more about military working dogs, we begin to better understand and appreciate their role, as well as become better equipped to care for them after they retire.
From all of us at West Park, we give pause and deepest gratitude to all of our veterans near and far, human and canine.
To learn more about us or to schedule an appointment for your equally amazing pet, please give us a call.