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The Heroic Canine

Updated on August 3, 2015

The K-9 Corps

The domesticated pet dog has been somewhat permanently labeled as “Man's Best Friend.” That may be true during times of peace. But during times of war, that designation certainly doesn't apply to the enemy. Many of what we call household pets were invaluable resources that saved many allied lives during times of war.

But it wasn't only during times of war these dogs have become valuable resources. For instance, how many lives were saved during 9/11 because of canines being able to locate people buried beneath tons of rubble?

And what about police and other law enforcement canines responsible for locating bombs and other explosives? It can be said without a doubt, in most respects the dog is worthy of the title "Man's best friend."

Irregardless of whether a dog is enlisted by the military, police or other law enforcement agency, no one can deny their value as guardians of many homes. Not to mention their other uses as helpmates to the blind and other and affirmed individuals. The history of canines in combat begins in the dusty pages of history.

Canine War History

The first mention of dogs used in combat situations is from an ancient kingdom of Lydia in modern-day Turkey. Around 600 B.C.E. Attack dogs were used to attack enemy cavalry. Centuries later, the Roman army trained their own specially bred combat war dogs.

Modern War Dogs

Before World War I the United States had not established an official K9 Program. Her and her or They borrowed trained sentry and courier dogs from the French, Belgian, and English troops.

In 1942, the United States Army began training dogs for a controversial “K-9 Corps.” Over a million dogs participated during World War I counting those on both sides. They carried messages and provided comfort to soldiers. However, the American military stopped training dogs for military purposes after World War I.

When the country entered World War II in 1941, a call went out for certain breeds of canines to aid in the war effort. The K-9 Corps preferred: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, collies, Siberian Huskies, Malamutes and Eskimo dogs.

Their training lasted about 12 weeks. Depending on their individual talents they were sent through one of four programs. They were to work as sentries, scouts, messengers or mine detectors. To prepare them for work as sentries, scouts, messengers or mine detectors. They were also essential in alerting allies to the presence of enemy troops.

However, these valiant dogs were not always treated with the respect they deserved. The Soviet Union used dogs to destroy enemy tanks. They trained their animals to seek out German Panzers. The only problem was they were fit with explosive charges that would detonate when coming into contact with the Panzers. Of course, that sealed the dog's fate.

Vietnam War

During more modern times in the late fifty's and early sixty's, very expensive jet aircraft and sophisticated weapons systems these dogs were used to provide security where they were housed.

After their usefulness in Vietnam, these heroic dogs who had served so loyally were essentially discarded as military equipment. Many were eusthanized as a cost-effective measure. Many have raised their voices as they considered these actions as an atrocity.

Whether you call them service dogs, guide dogs, or support dogs, these specially-trained animals are invaluable. They pull wheelchairs, pick up dropped items, and act as the eyes or ears of their charges.

Many studies have shown dogs are able to detect cancer in humans. It's often discovered after a dog’s persistent attention to one's body part the owner seeks medical attention and has discovered they have cancer at the specific part identified by the dog.

Federally funded studies have discovered trained canines are in a majority of cases able to identify samples of blood, tissue or aspirations drawn from people with cancer. In one study conducted by National Geographic, canines were able to detect breast and lung cancer the majority of the time.


Another type of service dog is a "seizure dog." How they are able to sense when a person is about to have a seizure isn't fully understood. It's postulated dogs are likely responding to an olfactory cue or smell. Trainers admit they can't train their dogs to be aware of oncoming seizures. The only plausible explanation is once a dog develops a strong bond with their owners they are able to sense when their charges are about to experience a seizure. Service dogs also seem to have an innate ability to detect when a person’s glucose level changes, which is helpful in monitoring diabetes.

The evidence is mounting that bonding with pets has beneficial biological effects such as elevated levels of hormone oxytocin. “Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effects. In addition the American Heart Association claims that owning a dog has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.


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    • Danida profile image

      Danida 2 years ago from London

      Dogs are amazing creatures... A dog loves its owner unconditionally which is what makes them different from humans imo. No matter what you do your dog will stick with you.

      Animals in general are great for relaxing you and are cleverer than we think.