Military-Grade Awesome

Cry, “Havoc!”, and Let Slip the Dogs of War

Osama bin Laden couldn't hide from the war dogs.

In Act 3 Scene 1 of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare made reference to the “dogs of war”. While the phrase has come to be used for any time anything goes on any sort of attack, Shakespeare was talking about actual dogs used in war. As far back as the Egyptians and Persians, dogs have been used in warfare. It wasn’t until recently in the US that dogs have had combat roles.

In previous wars, dogs were used by our military for things like running messages, drug enforcement, and other non-combat-related tasks. These dogs were considered equipment and often times were not trained to the extent that we see today.

Today, dogs are playing a much larger role in the military. They are now highly trained (at a cost of $20,000 or more each) fighting dogs who are considered active duty personnel. They are matched up with a handler after training, and the bond that is formed between the man and dog are utilized to ensure the highest output from both human and canine. Rather than euthanize the dog when it’s too old or injured to fulfill its service, military K-9s are retired and sent to live with their handlers or their handler’s family.

It amazes me that in our time, when robotics has advanced so far, that we are still using dogs in combat roles and that those roles are expanding. Not that I am against dogs being used for this purpose. Quite the opposite. It’s amazing to think that a dog can do certain jobs that, you would think, a robot could do much better. And, depending on the role, less expensively than a robot, as well.

In the end, this Bronze Age tradition of training dogs to fight alongside soldiers is still used today. The skills the dogs are trained for may be more advanced as is the equipment the dog carries, but the bottom line is still the same — a four-legged dog of war is as dependable and as deadly as anything else in a soldier’s arsenal.

For a look into the use of dogs in our modern military, I highly recommend Rebecca Frankel’s photo essays on ForeignPolicy.com here and here.

Hat tip to Alex Kierstein for the link to the War Dogs photo essay and the idea for this post.

[Image Credits: Lead photo courtesy of K9 Storm Inc., All other photos were taken by military personnel during the execution of their jobs and are therefore Public Domain]

  • P161911

    That picture of the dog jumping out of the plane looks a lot like Marmaduke the Great Dane. I'm amazed they can get the dog to do that more than once.

    I'm also amazed at how well some people can train dogs. I never was successful training my Rottweiler to fart on the "kill" command.

    • Reading through the photo essays, apparently the dogs don't seem to mind jumping out of helicopters (like the photo above) or out of airplanes (in tandem with their handler). A dog's sense of altitude is different than ours, and the handlers say the dog doesn't care as long as it's with its person. Their biggest challenge is getting the dog to not be afraid of the noise from the plane or helicopter.

      I'm amazed at how dogs respond to training. My dog is the first dog I've really had as an adult. We got her when she was 6 months old and she was stubborn as all get out. She still has a stubborn streak, but with training and figuring out how she responds to the training she's actually really easy to train. So much so, the trainer from the classes we've been thru calls her his "star pupil".

      • tonyola

        I've raised several dogs both as a child and an adult, and I've found out that the best success comes from planting in the dog's mind the fact that you are unquestionably its "pack leader" – to be followed without doubt or challenge on the dog's part. You don't have to be cruel or inflict pain to do that, either. Just as an example, the most effective way to discipline a dog is to pick it up by the scruff of the neck and shake it while speaking in a stern voice (not yelling). A mother bitch picks up her pups and shakes them to control their antics. The trick makes such a powerful impression on the dog that you should save it for only the worst offenses, like growling in anger at you or a family member.

  • Alff

    New to The Animal Channel – "Dog's Dog, the Bounty Hunting Dog"

  • TechieInHell

    There's more than just military use there. Some professional thieves will tell you that the best home security system you can get is a little yappy dog.

    • When I bought my house I asked the homeowners insurance company if they wouldn't cover certain breeds (some insurance companies apparently live in the Medievel Era and won't cover certain breeds). They said that they love for their clients to have dogs because they are the best home defense. Mocha hears anything unusual outside and goes to the window and barks. She has a fearsome bark, too.

    • skitter

      A burglar is sneaking through a house, when suddenly he hears, "I see you, and Jesus sees you."
      He looks around, sees no sign of anyone, and hears again, "I see you, and Jesus sees you."
      Finally, when he rounds a corner, and it's a parrot in a cage, "I see you, and Jesus sees you."
      Then he looks down and sees a doberman, and the parrot goes "Attack, Jesus! Attack!"

  • tonyola
  • tonyola

    We always had at least one dog around the house when I was a child – usually Airedales. Not just for home security, either. Each of the three brothers in the family got a puppy to take care of when they were around 9 or 10. I was the youngest, so there were dogs around from my earliest memories. The neighborhood where I spent my childhood had no leash or fence laws, so the dogs were free to roam the area with us kids – either as a group or each of us alone. Mom always felt more comfortable knowing that we had a dog with us when we were out and about. If she could see the dogs, she knew the kids were close by, and vice versa.

  • BlackIce_GTS

    Dogs were used as suicide bombers in WWII.
    Lesson one was 'yes we can train dogs to do that'.
    Lesson two was 'dogs can't tell the difference between a Sherman and a Panzer'.

    • tonyola

      It was the Soviets who tried using the suicide dogs in combat. The US conducted testing of dogs as suicide bombers against fortifications in simulated missions during WWII, but decided that the plan was unworkable in combat because the dogs weren't reliable enough.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tank_dog

    • P161911

      Actually after reading tonyola's link, lesson two was don't train the dogs to sniff out diesel tanks when you use diesel tanks, but the enemy uses gas powered tanks. Technically the dogs COULD tell the difference in a T-34 and a Panzer. The T-34 smells like diesel, the Panzer smells like gasoline.

      • BlackIce_GTS

        Research > vague half-remembered stuff partially based on something I read in an sci-fi alternate history of WWII.

    • Felis_Concolor

      Never use a dog where a pigeon will do.

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