War Dogs: what you need to know about dogs in the military

Dogs are used all over the military. Since the beginning of war, humans have used dogs in their military for their superior sight and smell abilities. These four-legged heroes not only help in detection and attack, they play an even larger role in boosting morale and providing therapy to the troops.German Shepherd used in the United States Military

A Dog’s Role:


These dogs are trained to warn and defend the camp against intruders. When the dogs notice an unrecognized individual or group, they are trained to bark or growl and the intruders. This allows the dog’s handler to quickly assess the situation and quickly call for reinforcements if needed.

Scouts:War dogs are often used as scouts to detect the presence of enemies or explosives

Scout dogs are used to help detect mines, booby traps, or enemy forces. These dogs are usually chosen for their high intelligence and stealth skills. They can detect threats up to 3,000 feet away and stand alert till their handlers have dealt with the threat.


This role requires the dogs to be extremely loyal to two different handlers. They would be tasked to transfer messages, equipment, or even the injured between their handlers. Messengers are usually fast, silent, and known to take advantage of natural cover.


Also know as search and rescue dogs, these dogs used to find casualties or injured individuals in battlefields. Dogs have an advantage to go to places that are normally not accessible or find parts that are hard to locate. They have been able to help save individuals who would have died if they were not quickly found.

Drug Detection:

These dogs are used by law enforcement officials to detect drugs. Detection dogs are generally placed in airports, checkpoints, borders, or wherever drug trafficking is suspected. They have the ability to detect even traces of drugs that are thought to be cleaned.

Breeds Used:

When dogs were first officially used by the United States in World War II, over 30 breeds was used. In modern warfare, only 5 breeds are regularly used: German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Giant Schnauzers, Belgian Sheepdogs, and Short Haired Farm Collies. These breeds were chosen because they proved to be very loyal, intelligent, and athletic. Other breeds are also used depending on the situation. Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are used in colder climates as sled dogs. Golden Retrievers and Labradors are used in odor detection and service dogs for vets.


Up until the year 2000 after several activist protests, these dogs were either euthanized or forced to stay in the military after their service. Now most these dogs can return to their families or are adopted by their handlers during the war. They may also transition into becoming therapy dogs or service dogs for veterans. Some war dogs may also develop PTSD just like their human counterparts. This can cause them to become increasingly skittish or prone to nightmares.

Stories of Dogs in War:

An unnamed dog…

…accompanied SEAL Team Six on their mission that killed Osama bin Laden. This dog was likely brought for their strong sense of smell for explosives and their training instinct to attack anyone with a weapon. On a similar note, dogs also played a vital role in the capture of Saddam Hussein as they were able to find him in several feet underground.


…was the most decorated dog in World War II for his efforts in France, Germany, Sicily, and North Africa. He was remembered for his attack on an armed italian nest and assisting with the capture of 10 enemy captives. He was also decorated with the Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross, and a Silver Star.


…was a German Shepard who served in the Vietnam War. Kaiser and his handler participated in over 30 combat patrols and 12 major operations. He was killed during an ambush while licking his handlers hand.


… was a one-eyed dog that also served in the Vietnam War. After his handler was shot, Nemo gallantly attacked the assailants that allowed his handler just enough time to call for reinforcements. As his handler became unconscious, Nemo continued to protect him by crawling on top of his body, not letting anyone touch him. Both eventually recovered.

Dogs have been part of the military since ancient warfare. There are over 2000 dogs in active service today in the United States alone. These dogs are extremely talented and go through a lot of training to be able to take part of the military. In addition to their superior sense of smell and their sense of loyalty, they provide a sense of comfort to the soldiers. War dogs have saved so many lives and are often the unsung heroes of war.

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3 thoughts on “War Dogs: what you need to know about dogs in the military

  1. SierraAutumnGirl

    Thank you for the insight on war dogs. I wish that I would have seen this before Memorial Day but better late than never.

  2. Victoria

    The dog who went with SEAL Team 6 for Bin Laden was Cairo, a Belgian Malinoix
    He was equipped with night vision gear.