K9 Veterans Day: Military Working Dog History

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K9 Veterans Day – Military Working Dog History

March 13th is K9 Veterans Day. Military working dogs play a significant role in today’s military.  Dogs roles span from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to training with troops in the states.

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On March 13th, 1942, the US Army began training dogs for the new war dog program or, “K9 Corps.” Although, during World War I, over a million dogs did serve in the military, carrying messages and comforting the soldiers.

After World War I, the US moved away from the training dogs.  However, as the US entered World War II, the American Kennel Association and a group called, Dogs for Defense, began a movement to mobilize dog owners.  Their efforts were aimed at getting the dog owners to donate animals to the US Army.

Training started in the Army in March of 1942.  By that fall, they were training dogs for the Navy, Marines, and the Coast Guard. Today, there over 2,000 military working dogs (MWDs). Dogs today are used for patrol, drug, and explosive detection, and other specialized missions. In 2011, United States Navy SEALs used a Belgian Malinois working dog named Cairo in the operation where Osama bin Laden was killed.

Military Working Dog Breeds

Most MWDs are either German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers,  and Belgian Malinois. These breeds are chosen because they can be very aggressive, smart, loyal, and athletic. In the past, they have also used breeds such as Doberman Pinschers, Collies, Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, and Eskimo Dogs.

The most famous “military dog” would have to be Rin Tin Tin. He was found as a puppy during World War I in France in 1918 by a US soldier. He was taken to the US in 1919, was taught tricks, and became a movie star. His film debut was in 1922, with the silent film, The Man From Hell’s River.

The US Postal Service also recently released Military Working Dog stamps to commemorate these working dogs.

 

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About the author

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.