Since ancient times, we have utilized dogs to protect ourselves and our property. 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 nosenerve 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 Know (Learn 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.

According to the Department of the Army Military Working Dog Program, MWD missions may involve the following: deterrence, detection, apprehension, tracking of suspects, and protection of handlers from harm.

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.

These 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.


We 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 war.jpgin 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.

Mike 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 situations.

Mike's 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.

The 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: After Service,
'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.

ther.jpgThis following letter comes from Debbie Kandoll, Military Working Dog Adoptions, pictured here with her Military Working Dog (Ret.) Benny 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!"

Jessica Ravitz, a CNN reporter, has a great article about War Dogs [War dogs remembered, decades later], which should be read in its entirety. It includes some powerful stories, especially that from Fred Dorr, now president of the Vietnam Dog Handler Association.

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 provided.

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 bestand sometimes onlyfriend. 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 . . .

Supporting our Four-Legged Soldiers
Mike Lemish is also an officer and member of the Space Coast War Dog Association (SCWDA), a wonderful group that supports our nation's four-legged soldiers. They have shipped over 15,000 lbs of morale and supply items to deployed dog teams; supported efforts in providing items to the children of Iraq & Afghanistan; and donated educational war dog books and videos to public libraries. Click here to learn more about mailing a card, a care package, or just a letter of support to one of these special teams.

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.

Chips 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.

Dogs of Peace: PART 1 

Dogs of Peace: PART 2

Dogs of Peace: PART 3

Dogs of Peace: PART 4

Dogs of Peace: PART 5

Dogs of Peace: PART 6

Dogs of Peace: PART 7

Dogs of Peace: PART 8

Dogs of Peace: PART 9



Famous model Golden Rusty