Skip to comments.Inspiring Pictures of U.S. Combat Dogs in Action
Posted on 05/13/2011 11:40:28 AM PDT by Nachum
They rarely get glory. Their funerals arent broadcast on TV. And theyll never ask for praise. But there are 2,700 of these soldiers serving in the U.S. military. Who are they? Theyre furry, have long noses, and walk on four legs. They are the militarys canines.
In fact, the New York Times reports that one such dog was involved in the raid on Osama bin Laden, sparking a wave of interest in what is becoming an essential tool in the war on terror.
In 2007, the Marines began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number that has grown to 350 and is expected to reach nearly 650 by the end of the year, the Times says. Over all, there are some 2,700 dogs on active duty in the American military. A decade ago, before the Sept. 11 attacks, there were 1,800.
The dogs are used for everything from tracking, to search-and-rescue, to bomb-sniffing. While the breeds have traditionally been Shepherds, increasingly the military is turning to Labradors:
Within the military, the breeds of choice are generally the German shepherd and a Belgian shepherd, or Malinois, but Marines in Afghanistan rely on pure-bred Labrador retrievers because of the dogs good noses and nonaggressive, eager-to-please temperaments. Labs now accompany many Marine foot patrols in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan,
(Excerpt) Read more at theblaze.com ...
I think the military dogs are wonderful. However, I ponder the logic about Marines and Labs? I get the idea that Labs have good noses but because they are non-aggressive? Non-aggressive to whom? Don’t you want a dog that can defend the soldiers or Marines over one that will lick you to death?
Ping the rest of the kennel, Joe. This is a good one.
Maybe they had a problem with the German Shepherds being overly protective of their masters with other US personnel. I doubt they want the dog to attack the enemy.
I recall reading that in WWII, dogs who were family pets were borrowed by the military to serve in the war, then, if they survived, returned to the family at the end of their service. I often wondered how these canine veterans readjusted to civilian life. There’s a good story in there somewhere, kind of the dog’s version of “The Best Years of Our Lives”.
The Labs are absolutely unsurpassed at hunting out hidden stuff. My oldest dog, a small (38#) and demure Chocolate Lab, will find you a downed cock pheasant in the middle of an overgrown 3 acre field, no problem. She'll wind it before she gets off the road. She once found a duck nobody else could locate -- it was in the middle of a 20 foot long 18" drainage culvert. She DOVE into the culvert, flushed the duck out the other end, whoa'ed on command while it was shot, then retrieved it.
And Labs are bred to WANT to find hidden stuff in the worst way. You just direct it to pheasants, or mallard ducks, or explosives.
On the other hand, while they are not attack dogs, they will defend when the chips are down. My Choc once stared down a stray dog that was stalking us . . . and she has gotten between me and what she perceived as a threat many times. And those long jaws built to hold mallards and Canadas are just chock full of sharp teeth . . . .
Not saying anything against the Malinois and Shepherds, which (when well bred) are superb at patrol and guard work. But the Labs are best at what they do.
I believe they use a couple of different breeds depending on the mission. They use Belgian Mals, which are well-suited to the work you describe. Dogs are specifically chosen because basically they’d rather bite you than do anything else. If they’re hesitant to bite they get kicked from the program. I call them Search & Destroy dogs. These are *intense* dogs.
There is a special called “War Dogs of the Pacific” shown frequently on the Military Channel. Most of the dogs were able to return to civilian life and some are highlighted.
(Warning, don’t watch this show with anyone you don’t want to see you cry - it will bring the strongest man to tears. But it is great.)
WASHINGTON Marines were on a foot patrol last fall in the Taliban strongholdof Marja, Afghanistan, when they shot and killed a lethal threat: a local dog that made the mistake of attacking the Marines Labrador retriever.
Capt. Manuel Zepeda, the commander of Company F, Second Battalion, Sixth Marines, was unapologetic. If the Lab on the patrol had been hurt, the Marines would have lost their best weapon for detecting roadside bombs and would have called for a medevac helicopter, just as they would for a human. An attack on the Lab was an attack on a fellow warrior...
BTW, the story I’m told is that the dogs have earned such an awesome reputation for sniffing out mines that the brilliant terrorists have figured out they have to bury the mines deeper so the dogs can’t smell them. Which basically renders the mine ineffective since they’re having to bury so deep. Pretty great, huh?
Here’s a link... http://www.uswardogs.org/index.html
I choke up just thinking about it.
Non-aggressive, maybe, but I pity the poor soul that threatens my wife or son or me. My black and my chocolate will have none of that. Speaking from experience. They are also extremely intelligent.
Thanks, I now have it bookmarked.
>>> Kandy, .... listening to a combat briefing ....
THAT is one h*lluv intelligent dog.
I lost my Doberman in November. I miss her so.... You can have whatever dog you want and I will take my girl. We rescued her 11 years ago where she was tied to a stake outside. “Someone” liberated her. Smart, loyal, fierce, and sometime cuddly. Had a 300 word vocabulary, it seemed.
Wish I could fine another....
That picture of the HALO Dog cracked me up....the trust those two have for one another is evident.
What amazes me is how the dogs can still smell things so sensitively when they are forced to be around all those smelly, lice-infested Arabs all the time.
The breed shouldn`t matter as long as the temperament is right.
Kandy looks like my dear sweet Elsa. She was a good dog. She was a gentle girl, but fierce if needed.
38#? That’s not a Lab, that’s a lap puppy! LOL How’d you get a purebred Lab that small? Did you withhold food?
I know that you have fine, fine dogs. I’ve seen the pictures and read their exploits. But I did not know that your Chocolate was so small.
Gives new meaning to "Take your dog to work day."
Thanks. I’ll look for it.
Wow! Thanks for putting this up! Great story and slide show.
I just loved that pic...”listening to a combat briefing”
Having been blessed with may fine dogs in my almost 70 years, I can say this. Breed is important, but more important is the breeder.
In the GSD line, most USA GSDs have been ruined by the AKC breeders who breed for looks alone. These poor dogs have been bred to have a sloping backline, and some of them are practically walking on their hocks, and aren’t suited for serious work. Police, etc. have been forced to go to Europe to get good GSDs suitably built for work.
Going to United Kennel Club shows is a better way to get well-bred dogs, because they have higher standards than the AKC, and the dogs are individually evaluated on areas beyond “beauty”, such as working ability specific to the breed, etc. Each dog is given a written evaluation, which a good breeder will show you. UKC shows are an excellent place to find good breeders.
Therefore, the BSD (Belgian Shepherd (Malinois) has been a very good choice. More smarts than the GSD, a much harder work drive, very easy to train, and a wonderful personality.
These two working dogs, if bred from good lines, can be trained for all kinds of work. The GSD is usually larger and heavier than the BSD, which is an advantage in some situations, and problematic in others.
GSDs, generally, will shut down/quit when they are fatigued and hot. BSDs will work until they drop dead. GSDs, generally, will tolerate endlessly boring training sessions with no reward, but BSDs figure you are just being anal, and will do the doggie equivalent of “flipping the bird” when subjected to overly long and boring training sessions. They won’t put up more than 5 minutes of training, once they know that you know that they know how to do it right.
I have been blessed to have been owned by both in my life, and I love both breeds. These are not aggressive dogs, and will not bite unless trained to do so. They are protective of farm and family, and both properly bred dogs will do a natural “bark and hold” against true threats.
A natural “bark and hold” means they will bark nastily at an intruder, making vicious growls, showing very sharp canine teeth. But, they will not actually bite unless provoked. What they will do is a very quick “air-snap” on either side of the intruder, in an effort to convince the same that they do mean business.
Usually the intruder, being canine, coyote, or two-legged, gets the message, and backs up, leaving with tail between legs.
Both the GSD and the BSD have to be carefully trained to be an aggressive biter. It really doesn’t come naturally to them. They have excellent noses, and can be trained for scent work, and I doubt that Labs have any advantage in that area of work.
Labs are wonderful gentle dogs, and very good for families in suburban neighborhoods. GSDs and BSDs, because of their strong instinct to protect the farm, it’s animals, and property lines, not really suited to the average ‘burban household, with all the comings and going of kids, other pets, and visiting church ladies.
But, if you want a good dog who will keep all varmints away from your kitchen garden, scare off the crows, protect your livestock from predators, and scare the pants off any local ne’er do wells, I would suggest a well-bred BSD, and not a Lab.
Just my opinion, based on my years of experience. Can you tell I love dogs?
You have to decide what you need your dog to do for you, and choose the breed very carefully. Then, you really have to do your homework on picking the right breeder.
One who is breeding for the traits you have selected, not just a backyard type (although some wonderful dogs have come from that situation, but it is a crap-shoot)
Then, you must be prepared to spend some quality time with your puppy, and that means “quantity” time. These dogs need socialization, and lots of hours spent with you. Once old enough, and past the “fear-stage”, they need some serious commitment from you in training.
I personally think a qualified trainer who will come to your property and train you to train your dog, is way better than the classes that everyone drags their dogs to, exposing them to whatever idiots show up, with whatever nutcases they drag in on the other end of the leash.
He or she is going to be your sidekick for many years, and you will never regret the time you put in to these early months and years of their lives. It takes real work and devotion to get a dog that is a joy to have by your side.
It doesn’t happen by wishing it so.
2 months tomorrow my poochie died. A story like this is so wonderful. Those dogs seem so happy!! It is so wonderful. Bow Wow, or Woof Woof!!!! ;)
My father’s family donated their German Shepherd to the war effort. The dog survived the war but did not adjust back to civilian life. They had to give the dog back to the military.
The story has a bittersweet/happy ending, but it moved me to tears when I read it YEARS ago, and just thinking about it makes my eyes sting, as I type this. Ford didn't sentimentalize dogs, but he did a better job than almost anyone of reproducing what it *might* be like to be a dog-a highly intelligent animal, but still an animal and hence easily bewildered by human actions. The only author who did a perhaps better job of entering a dog's mind is Wayne Smith, in his Thor; that novel is also highly recommended (but the movie based on Thor-Bad Moon-not so much.)
Oh, I almost forgot: If you’ve never seen Disney’s Chips the War Dog, it’s based on the experiences of a “civilian” German Shepherd dog who enters the WWII war dog program . It’s standard Disney fare but it’s still well worth watching. It is based on a real dog, and while he was played by a GSD in the film, the real Chips (a decorated war hero) was a German Shepherd/Irish setter mix. I saw a photo of him in a book once, and I honestly thought I was looking at a wolf or wolf/dog hybrid, before I read the caption. He had a GSD physique, but longer , thinner legs, a longer muzzle, and longer,shaggier fur than a pure GSD./ Just a gorgeous animal! Anyway, if you’re interested in the war dog story, the movie is worth seeking out-and it’s an entertaining, fun film .
Man’s Best Friend!
I think what's going on is that the breeding was a profound outcross -- a short, stocky, blocky conformation champion father and a tall, lean, leggy daughter of a National Field Champion (the only Choc ever to take that title). When the DNA was shook up and dealt, Shelley got the leanness (and the birdiness) of her mother, but the short back and short legs of her father. So she's not only small, but lightly built. She is just an inch or so shorter than my other two, but both of them are VERY long in the back and that adds weight. You can really see the difference when they run full out -- Katy and Ruby undulate like porpoises, Shelley just flies along in a straight line like a missile. The bigger girls are faster over a longer distance, but Shelley is a blinding sprinter and can turn on a dime.
That's why I added the qualifier "(if well bred)" - GSDs like Labs have been overbred and not always well bred due to their popularity. And the AKC conformation folks have had their way with the GSDs just like they have with the Labs . . . with fairly predictable results. Labs don't have the "tricycle gait" problem, but they have others . . . legs too short, muzzle too short, too much bone, overweight, losing the desire to retrieve. The British Kennel Club has the requirement that a dog must have a performance title suitable to the breed in order to qualify as a conformation champion, which helps.
What the Labs have that the GSDs don't that makes them better in the IED detection business is the desire to retrieve. Until you've seen a really keen Lab coming up to the line with her hackles up and her tail fluffled out just because she knows she's about to be allowed to pick up a duck, it's hard to comprehend just how crazy they are about it. My middle dog, Ruby, is just about certifiably insane when it comes to ducks (she's from very high drive field lines, but she takes birdiness to a whole new level. At age almost 5, we are finally getting that drive under control so that she can actually work a hunt test.)
She's just sitting in the holding blind waiting to be called to the line, but the sound of duck calls and shotguns is driving her nuts. Look at the hair along her back, and at the root of her tail you can see her "fluffy donut" - a ring of hair she inflates at the word "duck".
"OMG it's a MALLARD!!!!!" (notice the hind legs are floating a couple inches above the ground)
My oldest Lab (the wise one) does a "bark and hold". She will also air snap.
All of mine are under quarantine right now for rabies because Animal Control found a sick raccoon in our yard and I couldn't honestly say my dogs were in sight every minute before I found it. But Shelley was doing a bark and hold on it at a discreet distance - about 10 feet - and the others keep behind the leader. She was doing a darned good imitation of a schutzen dog . . . the raccoon was too sick to care, thank goodness.
Very good. Your dogs look like pure champions. I guess my point in questioning the use of Labs wasn’t one of how that breed performs. My question was about the way the article was written and I thought it may have been more “PC” to use Labs. I am all for the military using the proper dog for the proper activity. I just didn’t want them having to use the wrong dog because they look less frightening. You have to admit it: Labs don’t look frightening! They look very approachable. (perhaps that is just me since many of my cousins owned Labs and I am very comfortable around them). Even though I own a GSD, I wouldn’t approach one that I didn’t know. Thanks.
The military is getting more and more PC, and that's not good, but I don't think the guys on the front line are compromising on safety . . . yet.
“I don’t think the guys on the front line are compromising on safety”
My thought were this: they are allowing openly gay people in the military and that is PC (IMHO). Even though many of the military upper rank individuals said that this could cause a huge problem with our military. I figured that this change may be part of a bigger problem. A change in appearance type of PC. You are right about Labs though. In all my years I haven’t heard of one aggressive one. I know that is probably impossible but I haven’t. Now, I will say that I knew of at least four Yorkshire Terriers that would try to take your hand off. One of them that I knew had a pretty pink bow and painted nails. A disguise, I’m thinking. It was literally a Cujo in a small, cute body. LOL
Oh, I love discussing dogs, their breeding, instincts, and working abilities. Too many in the USA just think of them as “pets”, not as workers who are happiest when they have a job to do.
I just love the middle pic of your working lab.The intensity in her eyes is awesome. You can tell she is really into doing her job, and loves every second of it.
It occurs to me that it is probably more expensive to find a healthy GSD or Malinois who has the correct build and temperament than a good Lab, but I could be wrong.
Also, training these dogs is so expensive, and the training needs to be very specific. A scent trained dog is usually trained for only one type of scent work. A cadaver dog doesn’t do drug work, and a search and rescue dog doesn’t do cadavers.
Coat type must also be considered. The military doesn’t want dogs who have hard to maintain coats, I would imagine, which is why the short-haired Malinois is used rather than the Terveuren, Groenendahl, or Lakenois. These latter require too much grooming to be practical in the field, I am thinking.
But, I am just speculating.
Thank you for all the info, this is a fascinating subject.
And yes, EVERY dog needs a job! So many little lap dogs wouldn't be so snappy and neurotic if they had work to do. . . my oldest Lab, the Choc, competed in agility until she was 9 - got her AX and AXJ (AKC), AD and AJ (USDAA) titles - and the 4 inch (four inch!) class was hilarious, all those tiny MinPins and Yorkies and what not with their little legs going like sewing machines. The great thing about running a tiny dog in agility is You Can Keep Up. I perfected the rear cross and remote handling because Shelley was so darned FAST.
She takes a sort of humorous approach to her work - including retrieving -- she gets pretty revved up at the line, and she stands no nonsense from a wounded mallard, but you can see that she keeps her cool, unlike my black dog:
She is thinking all the time - my black doesn't necessarily stop to reason things through. When our club provided pickup dogs at a charity pheasant shoot, she did most of the work. She will winkle a bird out of deadfall and heavy cover, isn't at all worried by an angry wounded cock pheasant, and is always steady - never breaks, never creeps out in front of the gun.
On the other hand, she is not real keen on handling to a blind, because she sees herself as the Hunting Retriever Queen: "What? You're trying to tell me where the downed bird is? You with your puny two legs and ridiculous nose? Go get a cup of coffee, I'll find it on my own." This gets her points as a working hunting dog . . . but NOT in a hunting test!
I'm hopeful that my young Yellow Lab, just turned two, will have the black's drive but the choc's steadiness. She's done very well so far, she has her Started title in UKC/HRC and lacks one pass for her Junior Hunter title in AKC.
Never intended to get a third dog, I call her my "semi-rescue" - she was not in any danger and she wasn't being ill treated in any way, but she was just vegetating in the bitch's owner's back yard and not being used for the game. With her breeding it would have been a sin to leave her in the back yard just hanging out and chasing the occasional frisbee. And she is an absolutely beautiful dog - with her father's perfect temperament -- her father lacks one pass for his Hunting Retriever Champion title -- and is absolutely the sweetest, friendliest Lab you'll ever meet.
Have you got dogs right now? Are they working?
Look at that sweet happy smile on your young yellow “semi-rescue”. And, good for you to give her a life beyond frisbees!
I had to make the hardest choice in my entire life last November. It is still a raw wound.
My husband has Parkinson’s, and it was time to move into a “senior community” before he became so fragile that we would be considered ineligible. Timing is everything, unfortunately. You have to get in before you are too incapacitated.
This meant that we had to find a new home for our beloved Malinois, because most “senior retirement communities limit you to one pet, under 30 lbs”. Some refuse dogs, but will accept cats and birds.
I put the call out on the Belgian list, and had folks ready to take them, but my trusted vet backed me up against the wall and read me the riot act. He pointed out the cataracts that both my elderly Mals had, and convinced me that while they could function perfectly well with limited sight in their familiar home turf, they would be lost, heart-broken, and bewildered if sent to a strange place with strange people.
So, I did the harder thing. I miss them so much that I can’t type any more. My children got me a little (under 30 lb) Havanese. Sweet, shy, but not a replacement in my heart for my beloved Hanna and Shadow.
Can’t type any more... tears.
Way back in the 1970s (probably 1976, the bicenntenial year) it was suggested that Congress see to it that a statue was erected to honor the war dogs of WWI , WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam . (I believe earlier dogs with the US military were merely mascots rather than trained canines who served a military function, but I am not 100% sure of that.) One would think that that would be about the least controversial cause Congress ever took up, but no : Some suggested that honoring war dogs "demeaned" men and women veterans of our armed services. Arguing ensued, and then
A Congressman stood up. (No, I don't know his name or even which House he was in (probably the HOR rather than the senate) ; I am pulling this from my memory from reading a book on the history of dogs .) The Congressman described his WWII service "island hopping " in the Pacific. He described hunger, stress, constant fear of death, seeing good friends die and having to kill other human beings...And sleeplessness. How can one fall asleep and sleep restfully when one is in a war zone?
The ONLY time he and the men of his platoon got some much needed deep sleep was when a canine and his handler travelled with them. THEN he and his men could get restorative sleep, knowing they were guarded by the alert senses of the dog.
He suggested putting the wear dog memorial at the entrance to Arlington. The dog could sit there,forever on duty, forever alert, guarding the men as they lay in their eternal sleep.
In a sane country, that suggestion would have motion carried on the spot. The suggestion was just so perfect, so RIGHT. It was the most intelligent suggestion made in Congress throughout the entire 1970s. But no. :-(
But fortunately, a memorial was erected to the war dogs-several, in fact. One is at a veterenarian school in Tennessee, one is in Guam, I believe one or two others have since been erected at other locations.