The soldier's best friend: 9 ways that militaries use dogs for missions

Tech. Sgt. Manuel Martinez/US Air ForceUS Army Special Forces soldier jumps off the ramp of CH-47 Chinook helicopter with his military working dog during training in 2011.

When the members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six launched their raid into Osama bin Laden’s compound, Cairo was one of the first to hit the ground.

The Belgian Malinois, one of the military’s favourite breeds, went into battle outfitted similarly to his human counterparts, donning body armour, and high-tech eye wear called ‘doggles.’

Cairo, like the SEAL team he served alongside, gained immediate media attention. But he wasn’t the first canine to join soldiers in battle; dogs have been an integral part of military units throughout history. Their natural skills and instincts, honed through intense training, make them proficient at locating bombs, weapons and drugs and, at times, finding and supplying wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

Here’s a look at the ways militaries have used canines for operations, from aiding wounded troops to sniffing out bombs.


‘Canine couriers’ carried messages from one post to another during World War I.

Hulton Archive/GettyA German Shepherd messenger dog sets off from its German observation post circa 1916.

This majestic-looking pug was given his own tiny pair of glasses and binoculars.

Henry Guttmann/GettyA German Army dog from World War I wears a hat and glasses while carrying binoculars.

Dogs were also trained to locate wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

Hulton Archive/GettyIn this undated photo, a military dog finds a wounded soldier in France.

Supplied with their own gas masks, they could bring supplies or rations to wounded soldiers.

Fox photos/Hulton archive/GettyTwo Airedale Terriers attend canine training camp in Surrey, England during World War II. One wears a special gas mask while the other carries rations for a wounded soldier.

Dogs are part of the team — they don’t get left behind.

Terry Fincher/GettyUS Marines and their dog run towards a Bell Huey helicopter in the Tay Ninh area of Vietnam.

They do get their own pair of ‘doggles.’

Spc. Aubree Rundle/US ArmyRronnie gets her own ‘doggles’ while her handler prepares her to be hoisted by a helicopter near Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2007.

Dogs and their handlers are hoisted onto helicopters as a pair.

Ralph Orlowski/GettyParatroopers with dogs rope from a helicopter during an exercise in Merzig, Germany. The paratroop brigade was sent for an EU mission to the Congo to oversee elections in June 2007.

Military dogs wear glasses and goggles to help protect their eyes.

Pfc. Brendan Mullin/US Marine CorpsMarine specialised search dog ‘Tuxx’ waits to assist during a simulated mechanised raid at Camp Pendleton, California.

Military dogs are proficient at detecting bombs, weapons and drugs and are also used in counter-terrorism missions.

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Crail/US ArmyMilitary working dog teams from the 10th Special Forces Group release their dog into a building during handler assessment.

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