War dogs,
 Military use of Dogs, Military Service Dogs
By Catherine Marien
Bulldog Information 2003-2011 © All rights reserved. 

Wardogs are the most outstanding yet most unsung working dogs which paid a high tribute to humanity. Sometimes treated as heroes, sometimes as mere surplus commodities, they were used for a variety of tasks through the centuries, ranging from pure fighting dogs to ambulance dogs, over a large range of other duties. It was not until World War II that dogs were used as auxiliaries to the military forces as sentry, messenger, patrol aids and for special supply missions.

Military guard dog in Kosovo
Prior to the introduction of gunpowder dogs usually took an active part in combat. Large dogs equipped with spike collars were used by the early Greek and Roman soldiers who sent them forward to attack the enemy. During the Middle Ages, war dogs outfitted with armors were frequently used to defend caravans. Russia used ambulance dogs during the Russo-Japanese War. Dogs were employed as sentries by the Bulgarians and Italians in the Balkans and in Tripoli. Dogs were als used for mine dectection, as scout dogs, as sled and pack dogs, as guards and mascots,... etc.

Merely used as fighting dogs in the past, wardogs gradually gained recognition as military service dogs. The books presented below are unique animal and war stories. These memoirs are a tribute to all who cherish the loyalty and bonds that dogs are capable of giving their owners.

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Military guard dog in Kosovo
Photo by Hans Laubel
Dogs Tags of Courage: The Turmoil of War and the Rewards of Companionship
by John C. Burnam  Hardcover: 305 pages
Lost Coast Press; 1st ed ed. (Jan 1, 2000)
The authors presents his personal account of what it's like to be both a foot soldier and a dog handler in Vietnam, and how these dogs impacted his life and the "approximately 10,000 war dog handlers and 4,000 war dogs" that served during the Vietnam War. He described the different types of K-9 units used by all branches of the military. More information:

A Soldier's Best Friend: Scout Dogs and Their Handlers in the Vietnam War by John C. Burnham
Paperback: 304 pages. Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers (2003)
Testimonial to the strength and courage of America's soldiers and the heroics of their dog teams during the Vietnam War. Like 10,000 other young combat infantrymen, the author loved and cared for his dogs, literally carrying their food and water into battle. Nevertheless, the nearly 4,000 American war dogs of Vietnam were classified as "equipment" at the war's end, and deemed expendable despite the impassioned pleas of their handlers, thousands were abandoned to unknown fates. More information:

War Dogs: A History of Loyalty and Heroism
by Michael G. Lemish
Paperback: 284 pages. Publisher: Brasseys, Inc.; 1st Pbk ed. (1999)
A comprehensive book about canine heroes, containing a collection of astonishing true stories illustrated with rare, compelling photographs. They show the contributions dogs have made to America's defense since World War I: leading patrols, sniffing out poison gas and booby traps, defending base perimeters, pulling sleds, leading rescue teams to the wounded, locating caves and bunkers used by enemy soldiers, and even parachuting into combat. More information:

Always Faithful : A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII
by William W. Putney
Hardcover: 240 pages. Publisher: Free Press; (2001)
The author, a retired Marine Corps captain and veterinarian, writes a moving account of his days as commander of the 3rd Marine War Dog Platoon, in which some 72 dogs and their handlers were his responsibility. The dogs and handlers trained in scouting, mine detection, and other patrol duties and went into combat together. He shows how those dogs that survived the war were retrained and returned to civilian life. For veterans and dog owners.
More information:

Dogs At War
by Blythe Hamer, Amy Wilensky
Paperback: 160 pages.
Carlton Books; (October 28, 2002)

More information:

Trackers: The Untold Story of the Australian Dogs of War
by Peter Haran
Paperback: 212 p. Publisher: New Holland Publishers, Ltd.; (2001)
Moving account that reveals the Australian Army's little known use of combat tracker dogs during the Vietnam War. Thousands of allied lives were saved through the relationship built by the tracker dogs and handlers, together with the scout, sentry, mine, tunnel, booby trap, and other military working dog teams. The lives of the allied military forces depended on the trust built between handler and dog. A war veteran tells his story and the relationship between him and his larrikin labrador-kelpie-cross, Caesar. More information:

Dogs of the Conquest
Dogs of the Conquest
by John Grier & Jeannette J. Varner
Hardcover: 238 pages Publisher: Univ of Oklahoma Pr; 1st ed (1983)
In eight chapters the authors trace the use of dogs as auxiliaries in the spread of the conquest. From the Caribbean to the mainland, on to Mexico and as far north as Quivira and as far south as Chile, Spaniards employed fighting dogs in standing battles, to punish heretics and sexual sinners, to track fleeing vassals, to threaten those who would withhold tribute payments, etc. More information:

See also our recommended books:
- on heroic dogs and canine courage
- on the history of dogs

A History of Dogs in the Early Americas
by Marion Schwartz , Susan Hochgraf (Illustrator)
This academic and meticulously documented work examines the status of dogs in Native America from prehistory to the arrival of Europeans. Borrowing from biology, archaeology, ethnographies, chronicles, and tribal myths, the author traces the development of a variety of indigenous canine breeds and their role in the daily life of Native American tribes, including a treatment of working dogs, the eating of dog meat, dogs in the afterlife, and dogs in folk art. Includes many reproductions and renderings of original art. 
More information: