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Unit Six:  Military and Law Enforcement Working Dogs
Lesson Overview

Military Working Dogs and Horses have a long and honorable history of supporting combat operations.


They were not always treated well, and this is an area where greater education and policy change needs to occur. 


For example 4,000 German Shepherds were left behind to fend for themselves when the US military left Vietnam.

Many dogs in combat situations also provide another invaluable service.  They bring comfort, pleasure and peace to the troops they work with.  In this Unit we explore Army medical research into the important “secondary” function of dogs in combat, to save lives and to save souls.

A brief history of Military Working dogs – as well as a discussion of how they have served in current wars, is included in Unit Six.


These dogs are highly trained.  Today’s military working dogs test at a 95% or higher accuracy rate on tasks, according to an article in The Army Times. 


Military working dogs may detect several thousand unexploded IED’s (improvised explosive devices), during a single deployment cycle, saving countless lives.

Law Enforcement Canines


Most countries utilize K-9’s or law enforcement dogs.  This is not a new idea.  Dogs have been used for law enforcement since at least the Middle Ages where bloodhounds were used for hunting down outlaws.  Here are some examples of modern use of K-9’s.

  • Sentry or Attack dog.  This dog is used to locate and subdue suspects or enemy, and to provide security for sensitive or controlled areas.

  • Search and Rescue dog (SAR) This dog is used to locate suspects or find missing people or objects. Bloodhounds are a common breed for this task.

  • Detection dog or explosive sniffing dog - Some dogs are used to detect illicit substances such as drugs or explosives which may be carried on a person in their effects. In many countries, Beagles are often used in airports to sniff the baggage for items that are not permitted; due to their friendly nature and appearance, the Beagle does not worry most passengers.

  • Arson dogs - Some dogs are trained to pick up on traces of accelerants at sites of suspected arson.

  • Cadaver dogs - Some dogs are trained in detecting cadaverine and other odors of decomposing bodies. Dogs' noses are so sensitive that they are even capable of detecting bodies that are under running water.



Disaster Response Dogs and Search and Rescue Work

Today, canines are an integral part of modern law enforcement.  They are deployed to track humans in disaster areas, or for missing children, and elders with dementia, who have wandered off.  They are used to detect the presence of drugs, cell phones, bombs and contraband.  Because of their excellent noses, their abilities outstrip a human’s by a hundredfold. 

Specially trained disaster response dogs go into situations of crisis.  Some dogs are trained as SAR - Search and Rescue dogs, and can help find bodies – those who are alive and rescuable, and those who are deceased.  They are invaluable in these situations, where every moment counts, and when rescue worker’s resources are often stretched to capacity.

Dogs used in search and rescue work are trained for specific tasks.  Because their sense of smell can be 100,000 times better than a human’s they are ideally suited for this task.  Dogs capture the scent from a human from microscopic tissue particles that each of us continually sheds.  These particles become airborne and disburse the scent through the air like a cloud of smoke.  Air scenting dogs are used to search for missing persons or people who might be trapped.  Depending upon the conditions, these dogs can pick up the scent in the air over a quarter-mile away.  They can find people who are buried under rubble or even victims under water. 


Cadaver dogs are trained to search for bodies above or below ground.  Tracking dogs can follow the tracks of a person, and determine where they went.  “Mantrackers” are dogs who can be given something to sniff that came from the person for whom they are searching.  They can differentiate between the person they are tasked to find and countless other individuals who may be present in a crowded area. 


Any number of breeds with good noses could become a great search and rescue dog if they have the right temperament and proper training.  During SAR (Search and Rescue) training, dogs are taught small skills, incrementally.  Each skill is rewarded until it becomes a multi-step task.  Some dogs like affection or approval as a reward, others play with a coveted toy, like a kong (a tough rubber chew toy) or rope toy.  Good search and rescue dogs have great work ethics and are highly motivated.


SAR dogs at 9-11 Ground Zero.

Specially trained SAR dogs dive into water.

Rip finds a person trapped in the rubble and alerts King.  Rip saved many lives and was awarded the Dickin medal in 1945.

A World War II Hero


“Rip, a mixed-breed terrier, was the first of his kind when he began his work in 1940.  Found in Poplar, London by Air Raid Warden E. King following a heavy bombing raid, he was thrown scraps and adopted.  He was quickly made the mascot of the Southill Street Air Raid Patrol. 


He began acting as an unofficial rescue dog, able to sniff out those trapped beneath buildings, and became the service's first search and rescue dog.  Rip was not trained to do search and rescue work, but instantly showed a talent for locating people buried in bomb debris.  “It wasn't a question of training him,” Mr King noted at the time, “they simply couldn't stop him.”


In twelve months between 1940 and 1941, he found over a hundred victims of the air raids in London.  His success has been held partially responsible for encouraging authorities to train search and rescue dogs towards the end of World War II.

He worked bravely through the booming explosions of the raids, endured fire and smoke and seemed deaf to the air-raid sirens that made so many freeze with fear.


Rip was awarded the Dickin Medal in 1945, two years after it was introduced. He wore the medal on his collar until the day he died.  Rip became the first of a number of Dickin Medal winners to be buried in the PDSA Cemetery in Ilford, Essex. His headstone reads "Rip, D.M., "We also serve" - for the dog whose body lies here played his part in the Battle of Britain."

The Human-Animal Connection BLOG Lectures for Unit Six:

Military Working dogs – (history, present, and future)

Therapy Canines in Combat

Law Enforcement Canines

Disaster Response Dogs

Search and Rescue Work

If you are enrolled in this class here are your 


1. Read this Unit Overview

2. Read Two (or more) Unit Blog Posts

3. Answer the JOURNAL Questions Assignment

4. Take the Quiz (if you are doing for credit)

5. Then Proceed to the next unit:


Thank you for visiting the

Human-Animal Connection Website

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