We have all seen the pictures of military dogs standing next to their soldiers. These dogs become just as respected as their human counterparts, and their dedication to their job is endearing.
The use of war dogs dates back to the early Egyptians
, and many countries have used them as a necessary weapon. The Romans were known to create war groups made entirely of dogs. In the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great used dogs as messengers. Spanish conquistadors used dogs to attack and kill enemies. Though all of this occurred hundreds of years ago, the first use of a military dog in the United States occurred during the Seminole War. After that, the American Pit Bull Terrier was used for numerous tasks during World War I.
So what exactly is the purpose of dogs in the military? What do they do?
Back in ancient times, dogs were used as weapons for fighting. Larger dogs were adorned with spiked collars and sent into battle. Over the years, the use of dogs for fighting in wars has been abandoned due to the newer weapons that could easily kill these animals.
In World War I, dogs were trained to pull small carts full of guns and ammunition or to carry medical supplies. Some dogs were even trained to pull wounded soldiers out of harms way and drag them to designated medical areas.
In more recent wars, dogs were trained to carry messages between two soldiers. These messages could be in the form of letters, or they would wear vests that contained microphones and cameras to deliver audio and visual messages between soldiers.
In World War II, dogs were used as test subjects for new medications. Rather than risk trying a new medicine on a soldier, war doctors would try them out on dogs. Once World War II was over, these practices were frowned upon, and in 1966, the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act was put into place.
Dogs are trained to track mines, bombs and booby traps by locating electric wires beneath the surface. Dogs are also trained to locate hidden soldiers, such as snipers, by using their keen sense of smell.
War dogs have been used to intimidate prisoners. This was used as a tactic to get prisoners to talk in both the Iraq War and Guantanamo Bay. Soldiers allowed dogs to snip at and even bite naked prisoners, intimidating them into giving up confidential information.
Throughout the years, every branch of the United States military has utilized dogs for wars in some way or another. In 2011, there were over 600 dogs actively participating in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Though war dogs used to have to be euthanized, they can now be adopted and live out the rest of their heroic lives with a loving family. The United States recognizes these war dogs as heroes, and there are even memorials dedicated to war dogs, including the Alabama War Dogs Memorial.