“Man’s best friend” has been by our side for around 10,000 years. Throughout that time we have used dogs for hunting partners, scavengers, emotional support, transportation of beer, sheep herding, night watch, pulling sleds, rat extermination, and a perfect scapegoat with which to blame for our own silent but deadly farts.
Dogs have many uses within the military, too. They’ve received medals, and they have saved the lives of countless service members. You may just think German Shepherds have solely led the charge in canine use in the military, but—as this list will show—we have more furry friends out there on the battlefield than you might think.
Military-utilized dog breeds
Ol’ Yeller ain’t just an icon on the screen, this classic American breed also fights side by side with American armed forces. They are mainly utilized in “Combat Tracker Teams” (CTT). Their heightened sense of smell helps discover wounded allied soldiers and detect enemy forces. However, more and more the emotional bond they forge with soldiers is being recognized. Labradors are now used in “Combat Stress Control Units” to control stress levels and give comfort to soldiers deployed in combat fields.
Bloodhounds are notorious for their keen sense of smell and tracking abilities. These abilities are utilized to the fullest in the military, where bloodhounds are used to sniff out enemy soldiers as well as narcotics and weapons stockpiles. Researchers estimate that their sense of smell is 1,000 times stronger than a human’s.
Undoubtedly the cutest and least physically imposing dog on the list, the Yorkshire Terrier has many militant functions when it’s not crammed in some Valley Girl’s ,000 Birkin purse. Although the breed’s history is rooted in mice extermination in England, Yorkshire Terriers greatly assisted Allied forces in WWII. One specific Yorkshire, “Smoky” pulled critical wires through extremely narrow pipes, saving soldiers three days of digging.
Rottweilers aren’t just beloved by the infamous rapper “DMX”—they have been used in both police and military forces since WWI. They are smart, loyal, and have an incredibly strong bite. In World War I they were used to keep guard during the night and bark at any sign of enemy forces. They are also rumored to be used in intimidation and interrogation tactics.
Boxers performed many unique tasks during WWII. They had notes tied to their collars and were sent off to give messages as makeshift couriers. They were saddled with gear and used to carry packs for soldiers. Hell, during the Berlin airlift a boxer named “Vittles” was equipped with his own harness and parachute and dropped alongside Allied forces.
The Mastiff’s war history predates modern warfare as we know it today. In fact, mastiffs wartime usage predates the industrial revolution. The ancient Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans all used this dog in war. They weren’t out there sniffing for arrows and swords either– they were fitted with armor and spiked collars and trained to kill. Think the movie “300” meets “Turner and Hooch.”
No list of military dogs would be complete without the all-important German Shepherd. They have been heavily used throughout U.S. military history since the 1940s. In WWII they served exclusively as messenger dogs, in the Korean War they were used to lead injured soldiers off the battlefield and sniff out enemies, and in Vietnam, they were scout dogs. Currently, the Army alone has over 600 dog teams made up almost exclusively of German Shepherds. They continue to be a valuable member of our military and patriotic mascots for duty.