Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Canine Companions in War

Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Canine Companions in War

Article excerpt

WAR DOGS have been our men and women of the services' best loyal friends, since the first World War.

Dogs played a vital part in The Great War. They were particularly useful as more and more trenches crisscrossed the Western Front.

By 1918, Germany had employed 30,000 dogs, Britain, France and Belgian more than 20,000 and Italy some 3000. The US initially didn't use dogs except to employ a few hundred from the Allies for special missions. Down the track, the US produced the most decorated and highly ranked service dog in war history to that date - Sergeant Stubby.

Many breeds were used during WW1. The services preferred medium-sized, intelligent, trainable breeds. Because of their superior strength, agility, territorial nature and trainability Doberman Pinschers and GSDs, native to Germany, were favourites. Dobermans are considered highly intelligent and easily taught, and possess impressive guarding abilities.

German shepherds were also used because of their strength, intelligence and trainability, generally eager to please their masters. Other breeds associated with first World War were the smaller types like terriers, who were mostly used as ratters in the trenches.

Military dogs in the first World War were chosen for a variety of roles, depending on their size, intelligence and training. Some roles were as sentries, scouts, casualty dogs, explosive dogs, ratters and mascots.

Dogs were used as messengers and proved to be as reliable as soldiers in the dangerous job of running messages. The complexities of trench warfare meant that communication was always a problem.

A dog training school was set up in Scotland and a recruit from this school travelled more than 4000 metres on the Western Front with an important message to a brigade's headquarters. The dog travelled this very confronting and tough distance in less than an hour. …

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