In addition to all the fine qualities that dogs have as team members, dogs can do even more. They have visual and olfactory sensory abilities that are literally superhuman, can go where a soldier cannot, and can often subdue or intimidate a foe more quickly with non-lethal force. Because of these traits, they have been successfully trained for many military duties and roles by modern armies for a century.
War Dogs: Sense of Smell
Among the dog’s abilities that far exceed a man is his sense of smell. Dogs are reported to have ten to twenty times the number of receptors in their nose, compared to a human, and the olfactory part of their brain (devoted to smell) is much larger. This gives them the ability to detect very faint odors and to discriminate between very slight differences in chemical composition.
This literally superhuman ability makes dogs ideal for tasks such as tracking, detection of explosives or narcotics, casualty location, and search and rescue. When there is little or no wind, a dog can detect intruders up to 200 meters away using its senses of smell, hearing, and sight. When placed to take advantage of odors carried on the wind the range is extended, to perhaps as much as 1000 meters. In unfavorable wind conditions, a dog can still detect by sound and sight. Of course, a dog’s capabilities are reduced by smoke, dust, heavy vegetation, and similar confusing factors.
Roles and Duties for Military Working Dogs
Over the centuries dogs have had many roles with the military, but in modern times specific duties have been defined where dogs can give the best service. While in the past they have done everything from catch rats to draw fire to expose enemy positions, today dogs are given humane tasks where their special skills do the most good.
On this page, the most common duties for Military Working Dogs are defined.
These dogs worked on a short leash and were taught to give warning by growling, alerting or barking. They were especially valuable for working in the dark when attack from cover or the rear was most likely. The sentry dog was taught to accompany a military or civilian guard on patrol and give him warning of the approach or presence of strangers within the protected area.