Skip to main content

See also:

Soldier dog lessons

Marine Corporal John Dolezal with Cchaz, a Belgian Malinois
Marine Corporal John Dolezal with Cchaz, a Belgian Malinois
Adam Ferguson, Ferguson Photography (National Geographic)

It is hard to imagine a dog wanting to play soldier, but practically since the beginning of the United States, there have been reports of dogs assisting soldiers in this war or that. Whether it was to keep the soldiers company, to run interference for them, or to sniff out IEDs (improvised explosive devices), they have been there.

Dogs are pack animals; they run with others – not wanting to go it alone. So whether the dogs hangs with other dogs or with humans, all that matters to them is that they fit into the ‘pack.’ That is one of the main reasons why canines have been so very successful in the war game!

Modern day Military War Dogs (MWDs) are highly trained in a variety of ways. Those dogs that have been fighting alongside (or mainly in front of) our troops in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bagdad have had to learn to deal with the sound of constant gunfire as they need to remain calm and not run toward the fight.

In order to teach them the surroundings that they will encounter, the dog trainers out of Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, will don turbans, play calls to prayer, and even go so far as to set up training fields with the same types of farm animals that the dogs will experience when they are deployed. All of this together prepares the various canines for the sights, sounds and smells that they are about to encounter.

In addition, a dog may have to learn to rappel, wear protective eyewear (to protect their eyes from sandstorms), or to wear face masks that keeps their lungs clean as well as protected from noxious gases. Yes, indeed, these dogs do go to boot camp!

In lieu of Independence Day, many news channels and programs featured stories about various soldiers – some including the canines that certain military handlers work together with. Some of the incredible stories help the general population to realize the importance of these canines; especially the incredible emotional bonds that form between dog and handler. That is not to mention how dogs (being man’s best friends and all) affect the day-to-day environment of military camps; the dogs bringing an unconditional friendship to many soldiers that may otherwise feel terribly alone.

The more publicity surrounding these incredible furry soldiers, the better off they are becoming. America is finally getting a handle on just how large an asset these dogs are – on and off the battlefield. Where the dogs were once considered military working equipment, they are now considered, in many cases, to be soldiers, equal and true!