Dogs have been used as guards, sentries and similar duties for so long that it is almost unnecessary to explain their military role. Dogs are intelligent and loyal. They respond well to training and can be relied upon to come through in difficult situations. A bond forms between the working dog and his handler that will survive even the most difficult and tragic wartime circumstances. In this way, a soldier and his dog will fight for each other as buddies in exactly the same way as human fire team comrades who trained together.
Military Police dog training in Virginia during World War II. The MP handler works with the dog to apprehend a mock intruder.
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.
K-9 Unit, Hampton Roads Military Police, World War II.
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.
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