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Importance of Dogs in the US Military

Everyone who serves in the US military plays an essential role in preserving our freedom and security. Dogs who serve alongside their human service member counterparts in the military work hard to fill important roles. Today, we’ll take a look at the history of hard working canines in the military and how they and their handlers have become American heroes.

Dogs have been used in military campaigns since ancient times as scouts, sentries and trackers. The US has been using canines in combat since the country’s inception. Even so, dogs were not officially recognized as part of war efforts until World War II. Beginning then, dogs were used primarily for recognizance.

Today dogs play very important roles militaryconflicts in the Middle East. About 700 dogs are currently deployed overseas in the Middle East and elsewhere with about 1,500 serving domestically in active service.

Perhaps the most famous dog in US military history is “Sergeant Stubby”. As part of the 102nd Infantry, Yankee Division, the Boston or Bull Terrier detected enemy gas, barked warnings of nearby enemy soldiers and found wounded on battlefield. The interesting thing is that Stubby, who was adopted as a stray dog, had no official training and was smuggled by Private J. Robert Conway across the Atlantic in a transport ship with the troops. Though he only served for 18 months, Sergeant Stubby paved the way for military dogs to be recognized in the US. He is now immortalized in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Starting in the mid-20th century, the military started training dogs in specific areas of service. These include bomb, weapon and drug detection, tracking and attacking. A large part of the training takes place at the Department of Defense Military Working Dogs Training School at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. There they train up to 1,000 dogs at a time, teaching mainly German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois and Labradors, to find and detect items like weapons, bombs, gases and drugs.

Less than half of the dogs chosen for military training graduate. Dogs in active service are only accepted if they have an extremely keen sense of smell, are easily trained and are free of physical issues. Military dogs must have just the right level of aggression and excitability but must be able to attack on command. These trained dogs are so reliable and accurate, they have a better find percentage than any equipment developed to date. Trained military canines have an average of 98% accuracy in their detection skills.

After service, military dogs can go through similar experiences as their human counterparts. Canine service members can go through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after suffering emotional trauma during wartime. They also mourn loss similar to humans. Service dogs have been known to show signs of depression and agitation after their handler passed away or retired.

Upon retirement from military service, dogs enter the second phase of their lives. Thanks to “Robby’s Law” passed in 2000, handlers of service dogs have first rights to adopt their military animals. Next, the dogs are offered to law enforcement agencies for use in similar manner to their military service. Finally, adoption is open to the general public. Organizations like Saveavet.org work to place retired canine heroes with suitable families and ensure they are given the honorable discharge they deserve.

From all of us at Lennypads, “thank you” to our service members, both human and canine. We are truly thankful for your service and sacrifice to preserve the freedoms we hold dear. 

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