Dogs have been used for hundreds of years in combat, reportedly beginning around the time of the English and Spanish settlers in the 18thcentury. Recently, a video of a Belgian Malinois, who is being held hostage by the Taliban, went public. British forces seemingly deployed the dog, but the dogs name and gender are unknown. The Belgian Malinois breed is known for being fearless, driven, and able to handle heat. Naturally, these qualities make the Malinois a perfect choice for drug sniffing and explosives detection that US Special Operations troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq need.
The military does not generally report on “soldier dogs” taken hostage, but the most famous of such cases was a British dog named Judy captured by the Japanese during World War II, and registered as a Prisoner of War. The Pointer was sentenced to death, but somehow managed to survive and returned home to a hero’s welcome.
During the 2nd Seminole War of 1835, the US military used Cuban-bred bloodhounds to track Indians through the Florida swampland. Dogs were used as messengers during the Civil War and World War I, as scouts during the 1898 Spanish American War, and to sniff out hidden Japanese positions during World War II. 5000 canines were used to lead jungle patrols in Vietnam, which saved countless lives.
Currently, the military has a force as large as 2500 dogs of various breeds, which have played a significant role in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Breeds better suited for combat are those that don’t struggle with extreme heat or gunfire, and also, those that are not too lazy, loyal, or playful. Considering the vital role these animals play, it is clear that military working dogs (MWDs), are heroes. Good examples are Cairo, who was a member of the Navy Seal team that killed Osama bin Laden, and Rex, whose handler wrote a book about their Iraqi exploits.
While humans rely on the superior senses of animals, they also get to experience the joy and casual nature that dogs bring to their intense world of war. They add light to situations of enormous proportion and consequence, and help keep the soldiers in good spirits during tragedy and crisis.