During World War II, over 10,000 U.S.
dogs were recruited and trained for
military service as part of a program
known as "Dogs for Defense." The
military believed it would be able to put a
few hundred well-trained dogs to use.
Their estimates proved very low as
thousands would eventually be trained
A patriotic public donated dogs to be
trained for military functions. In all, the
military received nearly 20,000 dogs but
made use of only approximately half of
those available. The others were found,
for a variety of reasons, to be unsuitable
for their purposes and were returned to
The Quartermaster Remount Branch of
the army administered the program and
supplied service dogs to all branches of
the military over the course of the war.
Even the Navy and Coast Guard
eventually made use of service dogs
supplied by Dogs for Defense.
Dogs were subjected to their own
version of army boot camp, a training
program that lasted eight to twelve
weeks. The program involved general
obedience training and military-specific
training. Dogs learned specific tasks that
would help them in their army careers
and even were trained to function while
wearing gas masks. Training duties were
handled by Quartermaster staff who
followed a training regimen established by
the army and codified in an army
technical manual. Service dogs were
trained at a variety of military installations
across the U.S.
Dogs were trained for a variety of tasks.
Sentry dogs were the most commonly
needed of the Dogs for Defense. In fact,
over nine thousand of the dogs trained
by the military were used for this
function. Sentry dogs worked as guard
dogs at military installations and
military-protected sensitive civilian
locations. They were to provide warning
to soldiers of intruders. Scout dogs filled
a similar need, but were trained to
operate silently to help "sniff out" snipers
and other dangers. Messenger dogs were
taught to courier materials between
soldiers in both combat and non-combat
situations. The army even commanded
specific teams of sled dogs for possible
use during the war.
One of the most interesting functions
performed by the Dogs for Defense was
to serve as mine dogs. The dogs were
specifically trained to search out mines
and booby traps. There were two units of
mine dogs. Both were deployed in the
North African campaign. However, the
experiment did not work out as planned.
The dogs failed to successfully perform
the functions for which they were trained
and the mine dog project was
The unsuccessful experiment of using
dogs to find mines was one of the only
aspects of the Dogs for Defense program
that fell short of expectations. Overall,
the program was a tremendous success
and the well-trained dogs served their
Of particular note was a war dog named
Chips. Chips had been trained for sentry
duty but was observed breaking away
from his trainer during a combat situation
in Sicily. According to those who
observed the happenings, Chips attacked
an enemy machine gun nest and seized
one of the soldiers. His heroics were
legendary and Chips' story was
eventually made into a feature film.
Although Chips is certainly the most
famous of the so-called war dogs, many
other trained dogs made important
contributions to the allied war effort.
Following the war, the Dogs for Defense
were returned to their original owners.
This required another training session to
re-acclimate the war veteran dogs to
civilian life. By all accounts the dogs
reacted well to returning to their pre-war
lifestyles. The return of the first war
dogs, however, did not mark an end to
using dogs in the military.
Subsequent to World War II dogs served
the U.S. military in multiple theaters.
Many dogs saw combat duty in the Viet
Nam (in fact there were twenty eight dog
casualties during the war) and in the
Persian Gulf War. To this day the U.S.
army continues to train dogs for service.
These dogs demonstrate not only the
potential for good training techniques to
teach complicated skills but also the
capacity for dogs to help their owners
and country in a variety of ways.
to pet loss
|Military Dog Training
During World War II
|Copyright 2021 © Barry M. Baker