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Dogs and the War

10th Nov 2016

Dogs and the War

As we are nearing Rememberance Sunday we remember all the military and civil service men and woman who fought and were involved in the War, we will also remember the many animals that served in the War too. Beside the human soldiers dogs played very important roles during the war, the roles varied depending on their breed and how trainable they were. Some of the roles included were, scout dogs, sentry dogs, explosive dogs, ratting dogs, companion dogs, casualty, messenger and mascot dogs.

Dogs and World War One

Sentry/ Guard Dogs

These dogs were used to guard military bases and camps, usually they would be by one guards side and alert them of a intruder by giving them a signal such as a snarl or quiet growl that their handler would recognise. Most commonly Dobermans were used as they are very intelligent, big, strong and agile dogs. Today Dobermans are still used as guard dogs over the world and the breed is used in Film and T.V. To play guard dog roles.

Sentry dog in the War

Scout Dogs

Scout dogs were used to work with the soldiers on foot when patrolling ahead. They needed to be quiet in nature and have a way of showing the soldiers when they could smell the enemy. Usually medium sized gundogs were used as they used there characteristic stand and point to show the direction of the enemy. When gundogs hunt for game they would alert their handlers by quietly walking over to it, standing and pointing lifting one leg of the ground, sometimes they would raise their hackles too. This was very useful for soldiers when training the dogs as it was a natural behaviour for the dogs to show. They could even smell up to 1000 yards away making them a vital part in the war.

Scout Dogs and Soldiers

Dogs in the War

Casualty Dogs

Also known as mercy dogs, these dogs were used to carry medicine to the wounded on the battlefield. Usually small-medium agile dogs were used as they could quickly get across the field without being noticed. When they had sought out a wounded soldier they would sit with them until a solider medic could get to them to help them. The mercy dogs would also sit with the severely wounded comforting them until they had passed.

Casualty Dogs in the War

Messenger Dogs

Messenger dogs had one of the most dangerous and most important roles in the war. Messages needed to be past back and forth to camps and headquarters, sending a human soldier would have been a suicide mission as they are not as fast and are a much larger target. Highly trained dogs were given this role and soldiers found that it was a very successful method. These dogs would carry messages over the hardest of terrains and in all sorts of weather, one dog completed a 4000 metre run in less than 60 minutes on hard terrain, because of this messenger dogs were a very important role in the war.

Messenger Dogs

Machine Gun and Cart Pulling

Some dogs were also used to help pull or carry machinery. If horse, donkey or cow numbers had dropped the larger dogs they had would be used to help.

Dogs pulling carts

Companion Dogs

When the dogs weren't on duty they were also used as companion dogs, comforting the soldiers in the trenches and camps. After everything the soldiers had been through seeking the comfort from the dogs helped them cope with the physical and mental factors that war can bring.

Companion Dogs

ConclusionIt is thought that Germany had employed over 30,000 dogs and Britain, France and Belgium over 20,000. 7,000 of the British dogs employed were family pets while others came from re-homing centres or were strays.

It is estimated that in total 1 million dogs lost their lives during the First World War. Dogs were vital during the war at aiding soldiers with tasks, delivering messages or even just giving comfort to the soldiers when they needed it. Alongside dogs many other animals were also used and just as important, including Horses, Pigeons, Donkeys, Cows, Camels and even Elephants.


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