Since ancient times, we have utilized dogs to protect ourselves and our
From 'war dogs' trained in combat to their use as
scouts, sentries and trackers, their uses have been varied. During World War I, the British were the first to employ
the talents of explosive detection canines when they
were trained to find land mines. Trained dogs, with their keen sense of smell, have proven to be
the most effective means known for detecting explosive materials.
Scent. You cannot see it nor smell
it. It cannot be photographed or died or lifted like a fingerprint. You cannot
find it with a laser or send it to a lab for analysis. Yet, it is there just
waiting to be understood. Olfaction, the process of
smelling, is a dog's primary unique sense. Moisture on the surface
of a canine's noise helps to dissolve molecules in the air. These molecules then
come into contact with olfactory membranes inside the dog's nose─nerve impulses sent to the olfactory center in the brain.
Dogs also have a vomeronasal organ in the roof of their mouths which allows them
to "taste" certain smells. This organ transmits information directly to the part
of the brain known as the limbic system, which controls emotional responses.
Learn more about our powerful canine sniffers here.
Amazing Canine Noses
more with this Auburn University IBDS Report)
►With 1 drop of urine, can learn animal’s sex, diet,
health, emotional state, dominant or submissive, friend or foe. ►Tracking canines follow biochemical trail of dead skin cells,
sweat, odor molecules, and gasses. ►Scent articles are like 3-D odor image
─ considerably more detailed than a photo is for a person. ►Olfactory detection limits range from 10's of
parts per billion to 500 parts per trillion.
Military Working Dogs (MWDs) function as an extension of our soldiers' own
senses. Machines are unable to be as effective as a MWD, used by the military police (MP) to:
secure installation and property; help enforce military laws and regulations;
and, increase the effectiveness of the combat support provided by the MPs.
Military Working Dog Training: The
(Fun?) of being a Decoy
Like other highly specialized items of equipment, MWDs complement and
enhance the capabilities of the MP. Such teams allow MPs to perform their missions more effectively and, in
many cases, with significant savings of manpower, time, and money. These MWD teams
also provide a strong psychological deterrent to potential offenders.
All dogs trained and used as working dogs by the Army are
procured by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron, Lackland AFB,
TX. German Shepherd dogs are used as the standard breed as they are
intelligent, dependable, predictable, easily trained, usually moderately
aggressive, and can adapt readily to almost any climatic conditions.
However, MWDs are not limited to the German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois.
Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are also part of the military dog
program, TSA/FAA also employing them as bomb detectors.
Learn more about our Golden Retriever explosives
detectors here. And, check out the Dogs of Peace is a
documentary about Land Mine Dogs here.
are the roles of the military working dog: a. The patrol dog is tolerant of people and can be used in
almost any area of an installation including airfields, housing, shopping,
and industrial areas. Patrol dog teams are used with law enforcement and
security patrols to:
(1) Enhance the rear area protection capability.
(2) Search, scout, and track.
(3) Observe from listening or observation posts. b. Detection dog teams are trained to detect controlled
substances or explosives used to construct explosive devices that threaten,
damage, or destroy personnel or property. c. The MWD team’s specialized capabilities make it one of
the most effective tools available to the commander for combat support,
security, and law enforcement. As the only live equipment employed
Army–wide, the dog’s continuing proficiency depends on realistic daily
training and care. Skills which are not practiced or used can be lost. The
assignment of dogs and handlers together as active teams is critical to
their continuing effectiveness.
have been interested in the role our War Dogs play for some time. But, it
was our chance interactions with Mike Lemish that provided us with so much
information about the continuing issues of these crucial canines. Mike is
the official Historian for the
Vietnam Dog Handler Association (VDHA), also recognized as the only
military dog historian
in the U.S. The VDHA was organized in 1993 by
a group of six veteran war dog handlers that served during the Vietnam
Conflict. One of their original goals was to never give up the search to
re-unite veteran war dog handlers and honor the memory of their war dog
partners. As a result, the group has grown from six to almost 3000 members.
is also an internationally known author who has been researching and writing
about military war dogs since 1994. His first book,
WAR DOGS: A History of Loyalty and Heroism, was originally published
in 1996 and tells the history of the U.S. K-9 Corps. Now in paperback, War
Dogs provides an eye-opening look at unsung canine heroes from World War I
to the present. Terriers, shepherds, beagles, collies, huskies, and
Dobermans are only a few of the breeds that have pulled sleds, searched
caves and bunkers, and even parachuted into combat. During World War I the
war dogs functioned as messengers and also provided assistance to the Red
Cross by finding the wounded on battlefields, he said. The American K-9
corps began during World War II, when thousands of dogs, actually donated by
civilians, patrolled the shorelines. Mike has collected true
stories and rare photos that reflect the strong bonds that have formed
between war dogs and their masters as they worked together in dangerous
newest book, just published in February 2010, is FOREVER FORWARD: K-9
OPERATIONS IN VIETNAM. The first in-depth account of K-9 Operations
during the Vietnam War, the book provides a behind the scenes look at how
Allied forces employed dog teams in a variety of roles, the evolution of the
U.S. military working dog program, and the aftermath of Vietnam. The 4,000
dogs that served with our men in Vietnam in every service branch are
America's unsung heroes. American dog teams averted over 10,000 casualties
and worked as scouts, sentries, trackers, mine, and tunnel detectors. They
were so effective the Viet Cong even placed a bounty on them. Heroes yes,
but our own government left most of them behind to an unknown fate.
Forever Forward is a fabulous book, containing over 200 photographs,
of these special trained teams. If you love dogs and are fascinated by how
they have bonded with man to help in protecting our liberty, then this is a
good book to explore. There is so much that is packed into 288 pages that we
have had to dog-ear many areas of interest.
It was fascinating to learn that Australia was one of over 40 countries that
supported the South Vietnamese during the war, and like the British and
Americans, believed in the use of K-9 tracking teams. And, we did not know
that initially within the scout dog program, dogs were tethered to their
handlers by a leather leash, the idea for an off-leash scout dog program
initially beginning in 1965 at the University of Maryland. We also learned
about how TCP (tropical canine pancytopenia), which is caused by Ehrlichia
canis, and is transmitted by ticks, almost wiped out the military dog
program in Vietnam. A fatal disease in dogs, it is characterized by
hemorrhage, pancytopenia (reduction in number of red & white blood cells and
platelets), and emaciation.
Forever Forward is not just about Vietnam but also tells about
the continuing effort to educate the public about military working dogs so
that they receive proper recognition. Although not a military dog handler,
Mike Lemish is proud to be part of the group that persuaded the government
to enact a law to allow citizens to adopt retired military dogs (not done
since the close of WWII).
As a result of H.R. 5314 and then passage of
PUBLIC LAW 106–446 on November 6, 2000, civilians can adopt a retiring
Military Working Dog. This new law amended title 10, United States Code, to
facilitate the adoption of retired military working dogs by law enforcement
agencies, former handlers of these dogs, and other persons capable of caring
for these dogs.
Mike is shown here with Golden Retriever Sedona, however, cancer took him
on April 9, 2009. After two Golden losses, Mike's wife could not bear
staying with the breed. So, they rescued a 1-year-old Duck Toller mix from
Arkansas and then brought on 3-year-old retired Military Working Dog, Lucy.
According to Mike, they are getting along fine but he's working on teaching
them to relax together.
photo on the left shows Lucy's tattoo, "N430". Did you know that all
military dogs are tattooed with a letter and three digits? Well, you didn't
think they wore dog tags, did you?
Highly Trained Military Dogs
Meet Civilian Life:
'War Dogs' Switch From Bomb Sniffing to Playing Fetch
Interested in adopting a retired MWD? The
Military Working Dog Adoptions site will aid in placing many of
these wonderful dogs into good homes to have the retirement they so richly
deserve. The website has been established for the purpose of making the
Retiring Military Working Dog adoption process easier for those interested
in giving a Forever Home to a deserving Veteran.
following letter comes from Debbie Kandoll,
Military Working Dog Adoptions, pictured here with
her Military Working Dog (Ret.)
B163, who at age 10 started out on a second career as a
Therapy Dog. Sadly, he left her side in January, but I'm sure he had a
wonderful time with Debbie for the two years they shared together:
"I adopted a retired Military
Working Dog (MWD) in January 2008. From the process, I discovered that
the How To’s of MWD were not clear, and as a result some retiring MWDs
fall through the cracks and are euthanized simply because their time for
placement has run out. I passionately wanted to do SOMETHING to HELP,
and since I can’t adopt them ALL, my website to disseminate information is
the next best thing!"
Maybe it was the sound of the wind cutting through the wire. Perhaps
he caught a small vibration with his keen eyes. Or it could have been a
slight difference in the air’s smell. Whatever it was, when Sarge
noticed that his Marine Corps handler, Fred Dorr, was creeping down the
wrong path in the Vietnam jungle, the German shepherd did something he’d
never done out in the field: He looked at Dorr and barked, before taking
a seat. “When he sat down, I knew there was a trip wire. I was one step away
from it,” remembered Dorr, who with his dog in 1969 was “walking point,”
leading the way for a dozen soldiers. Had the hidden explosive device
been tripped, “It would have gotten half of us.” . . .
For Dorr, of the Vietnam Dog Handler Association, this has been a
blessing. He said leaving his partner Sarge behind, all those decades
ago, haunted him. “A lot of us [handlers] suffered PTSD,” he said,
referring to post-traumatic stress disorder. “It’s like leaving your kid
back there.” But he now has Bluma, the war dog he adopted from Lackland Air Force
Base in San Antonio, Texas. The German shepherd, who has hip problems,
looks uncannily like Sarge, he said, and having him around is a source
of comfort. II’m taking care of an old vet,” Dorr said, “and he’s taking
care of me.”
The smiles are many. The bonds are real. The stakes are
high. We found a wonderful link that reveals a slide show detailing
a proposed Television series to raise awareness of programs that makes real
life heroes available for adoption. But, the website has no other
information except for this one document. It appears to come from the Lackland Air Force Base as their MWD adoptions number (210) 671-5874 is
Check it out.
We think it would be an amazing series. It begins this way:
During our darkest hour, they remain by our side. When all else seems
lost, they are man’s best―and sometimes only―friend.
They spend their lives protecting ours, asking only for affection in
return. These are the rarest of breeds. They are heroes. But when their
life’s work is done, they are the ones that need protection. Now, one
series will help write a happy ending to their truly moving stories . .
Sharing the wonder of War Dogs
with Youngsters If you are interested in
helping your youngsters or students better understand the importance of our
war dogs, check out these books by author Nancy West from
Off Lead Publications.
This publisher features books that celebrate the magical bond that exists
between animals and their human companions, and the heroic 'deeds of
goodness' accomplished through these special partnerships.
The War Dog: Based on the True-Life Adventures of the World War II K-9 Hero
is an historical fiction about America's most highly decorated military dog
from World War II.
Chips, a husky-shepherd-collie mix, is a curious and carefree dog until the
news arrives that Japanese warplanes have bombed Pearl Harbor. Suddenly
Chip's comfortable life, and the lives of everyone he knows in his peaceful
village are changed forever. Follow Chips as he is enlisted in "Dogs for
Defense" and joins the first war dog detachment to be shipped overseas into
some for the fiercest fighting of the Second World War. This is a timeless
story about the importance of home, friendship, and loyalty during one of
the most challenging times in America's history.
Kali Leads the Way is the story of a humanitarian mine detection dog
named Kali that works in Cambodia. Kali has an important job to do. It’s her
job to find dangerous land mines that lay hidden in the ground. Warring
armies planted millions of the small explosives in Kali’s homeland of
Cambodia. Now, farmers can’t safely farm their land. They fear that their
plows might accidentally hit one of the hidden bombs. Children can’t play in
their backyard fields or forests either. If they step on a land mine it
might explode, and they will be badly injured. When a young boy becomes
sick, Kali must prove that she has the qualities of a top mine detection dog
and carefully lead the boy, his father, and her handler over a treacherous
mountain path to the nearest hospital in Kampot City.
Dogs of Peace: Shot in Afghanistan 9 months after 9/11 and within weeks of the "fall" of the
Taliban, Dogs of Peace is a documentary about Land Mine Dogs. The dogs and men
who handle them, whose job it is to find and depose of these insidious weapons.
Now that's a Dirty Job.
This documentary tells of the terrors and hardships faced by the people of
Afghanistan at that time. This is he story of the Afghan men and their dogs of
the Mine Detection Squad who put their lives on the line every day as they
search out the ten million land mines that infest Afghanistan.