A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany


Front Royal Dog Reception And Training Center, VA,
First Coast Guard And Army Graduation Class, 1942

Basic Training...K-9 Style!

A highly specialized program for training, both the dogs and handlers, was set up by the QMC Remount Branch through the cooperation of technical experts of the Military Training Div. Office of The Quartermaster General, and leading dog trainers in the country. Of basic significance was the development of a comprehensive plan, whereby the dogs and handlers could be trained together as a team for sentry or tactical work; for the effectiveness with which the animals performed their duties depended not only upon the thoroughness of their own training but upon that of their masters as well.

Learning The Basics...At Front Royal

Total training time for a dog was between 8-12 weeks. At the training centers, the dogs and student handlers began a rigid military routine. A "basic training" period was initiated where dogs were trained to carry out certain fundamental commands, such as sit, stay, come, etc... Also during this time, no one but the handler was authorized to feed, pet or handle the dog, on the premise that the animal otherwise would soon regard all persons as friends and then merely become a mascot.

Ouch...Now That Had To Hurt...Alot!

Originally, training activities were conducted at a ratio of one man per eight sentry dogs. It soon became evident however that man and dogs would both be better instructed if the ratio was one man to four dogs and this change was made early in December 1942. A few months later, when the Coast Guard expressed a wish for attack dogs, provisions were made for teaching two and even only one guardman to one dog. As a result, more handlers were trained for the Coast Guard than for the Army; 2,169 men being instructed for the Army and 2,662 for the Coast Guard.

Learning How To Keep It On!

Normally the first month was devoted to basic training intended to developing the patterns of behavior fundamental in all war dogs, and to determine their classification for specialized work. Besides learning to obey verbal commands and hand gestures; they were accustomed to both muzzles and gas masks, riding in cars and trucks, and to working under gunfire. Mean while, the student handlers learned about grooming, chow, kenneling; and about the capabilities and the limitations of the dogs. They also learned the value of patience!

Because sometimes it took an awful lot of patience to teach the dogs, what you wanted of them!

Example: At one of the K-9 training center the dogs were being trained to jump hurdles in series. One was a huge fawn colored Great Dane. When it came his turn the trainer released him and he bounded away. But Duke wasn't quite certain what he was supposed to do. When he reached the first hurdle, instead of jumping it but anxious to please none-the-less, he picked up the awkward wooden hurdle in his massive jaws and carried it back and laid it at his handler's feet, wagging his tail proudly.

After afew more times, Duke finally realized what his handler wanted, and left his new toy alone!

QMC War Dog School Diploma

After completion of basic training each dog and handler went through specialized training:

Sentry Dogs...

worked chiefly on a short leash and required less instruction than the other K-9 types but were required to be moderately intelligent, willing and aggressive.

Attack Dogs, which were included in this category, were taught not merely to warn of the presence of a stranger by growling or barking, but also to work off leash and attack on command or provocation.  They were especially valuable for working in the dark when attack from cover or the rear was most likely, within the area protected.

QMC Attack Training
...1943 Style!

Attack Training, Fort Robinson, 1943

In 1943, the trainer might have worn hockey gloves to protect his hands, rather than a padded sleeve... and the suit back then, was nothing more than bits and pieces!

Protective Suit Photo
Is Coming Soon!

Unlike today when conducting attack training, where a member of the training team would just have to put on a heavy padded protective suit or sleeve...a fairly easy process!

In '43, he would had put on a slightly padded union suit over his uniform, then on top of that, he put yet another suit of heavy canvas coveralls.

Cat Island, Japanese-Americans Were Used
As A Experiment During Attack Training '43

And to save his throat and to protect his eyes, the man would have worn a wire netting over his head and on top of this, an canvas hood.

The K-9's Attacked High And Hard!

Splints and bandages, then heavy gloves, guarded his hands from snapping teeth. As some dogs' jaws are so strong, they can exert a pressure of 500 lbs. on a man's wrist.

Instilling Confidence In A War Dog, 1943

Even with all of these elaborate precautions, men would be bitten...mostly on the hands and about the knees. And can you imagine, how hot it must have been inside, and the amount of time it had to take, just to get prepared.

A Marine And His Scout Dog,
Camp RImini, Montana

Scout or Patrol Dogs

In addition to the skills listed for sentry dogs, scout/patrol dogs were trained to work with combat units and give silence warning of the presence of a stranger or group, in order to aid in the detection of snipers, ambushes and other enemy forces in a particular locality. A strong dog of medium size and quiet disposition was preferable; he was required to have acute hearing, highly developed sensitive powers and the ability to detect motion.

Prince, A Messenger Dog Carrys A
Dispatch From Headquarters, Italy, 1943.

Messenger Dogs

The most desired quality in these dogs was loyalty, since he must be motivated by the desire to work with two handlers. They learned to travel silently and take advantage of natural cover when moving between the two handlers. They needed to possess great speed, stamina, strength, endurance, the ability to swim and superior powers of scenting and hearing. Unlike most other types, messenger dogs were not required to look for trouble, and hence it was desirable that they have a suspicious rather than an aggressive nature. (A total of 151 messenger dogs were trained).

King Has Found Something, A Mine,
Which The Handler Is Trying To Find!

Mine Dogs

Called the M-Dog or mine detection dog they were trained to find trip wires, booby traps,  metallic and non-metallic mines. About 140 dogs were trained. Only two units were activated.  Both were sent to North Africa where the dogs had problems detecting mines under combat conditions, the program was discontinued!

Sheet Music Cover For 'Dogs For Defense's
Marching Song, "Tramp, the dogs are marching!"

Front Royal, Virginia,
Reception & Dog Training Center

A Typical Training Day, 1943

This was the first time that the American Army had trained dogs for use in war. During World War I, we had borrowed some from the French, British and our other allies.

Tramp...tramp...the dogs are marching! at Front Royal

The manual on dog training now being used was based on the work and experiences of foreign armies, and on reports from our military attaches stationed in foreign lands, including Germany, during the thirties, where war dogs were being used.

Lieut. Col. E. H. Richardson, the commandant of the British War Dog School, book, "British War Dogs," published twenty years earlier, was now a favorite with American Army officers detailed to duty at the QMC K-9 schools.

If anything, Front Royal was huge by anyone's standards. Not dozens of fields but hundreds... on any afternoon, there would be 'combat training,' where marines are holding their dogs while others fire off guns to teach the dogs soldiers not to fear the roar of battle.

Across another distant field, Army messenger dogs are racing back and forth, between their two handlers. To each dog's collar a waterproof metal capsule is attached. In a real battle, it may hold maps, codes, letters important orders or calls for help.

On a parade ground, Coast Guardsmen put a pack of police dogs through their paces, to help patrol the ocean beaches, from Maine to Oregon state.

War Dogs Going Thru Their Paces, 1943

On another field, Red Cross dogs are learning to search a battlefield for the wounded; and near by, army handlers with their K-9s, and Marines with their Dobermans are going thru attack training! And other dogs are learnng the finer points of how to become a silent patrol dog.

Front Royal's "Dog Town" Kennel Area, 1943

Late in the afternoon, the trainers walk in from the fields, leading their dogs. They tie them up, each dog to his own one room pine shack of a kennel. Some are bedded with cedar shavings against fleas; most have only straw.

At 4:00 p.m. each day, up and down these streets of 'Dog Town' moves the dog-feed wagon. It unloads a tin plate of food at each kennel. Some dogs jump the length of their leashes, barking furiously, trying to grab the plate, others just wait.

Chow Time...Some Didn't Want To Wait!

Here the dog ration of manufactured food costs Uncle Sam about 30 cents a day. When this is spiked with boiled horse meat the dogs like it better.

Horses thus butchered are usually old ones from a near by cavalry remount station.

Tomorrow, the training will start all over again!

And again the next day because repetition is the key.

And when the training is done, this batch of new 'K-9 Soldiers' will be sent off to war!


Experiments in the use of dogs for other military purposes were carried on, but it was 1944 before other types were trained on any sizable scale. Of the 10,425 dogs trained at the war dog centers during World War II, nearly 9,300 were for sentry duty. The Coast Guard utilized approx one third of these as shown in the following table:

Type and Number of Dogs Trained

Type of Dog Trained for Army Trained for
Coast Guard
Sentry 6,121 3,174  9,295
Scout     571         0     571
Sled and pack     263         0     268
Messenger     151         0     151
Mine detection     140         0     140

Reports from military installations and civilian establishments using sentry dogs were on the whole favorable. The generally satisfactory nature of the services the dogs performed was demonstrated by the small number of using agencies which abandoned their employment and by the large number of new requisitions for additional animals.

Establishment of War Dog Platoons

Except for the two experimental Engineer mine dog detection units, the initial issues of dogs and handlers trained for duty overseas were casual detachments. It was not until March 1944 that the War Department authorized the establishment of Quartermaster war dog platoons and issued special Tables of Organization and Equipment (T/O & E) for that purpose.

Originally a platoon consisted of twelve scout dogs plus twelve messenger dogs, and one mine detection dog; one officer and twenty-six enlisted men.

Three months later, however, on the basis of early theater experience, the mine detection dog was eliminated and the number of scout dogs was increased to eighteen, while the number of messenger dogs was reduced to six and the number of enlisted men to twenty.

Fifteen Quartermaster war dog platoons were activated and trained in 1944, and all were shipped overseas. Seven of them saw service in Europe and eight in the Pacific.
These platoons were unique in that they served with infantry units and engaged in tactical operations in the combat areas yet the Quartermaster Corps supplied and trained not only the dogs but the handlers as well.

Hey Sarge...Got Any Dog Bones?

The men were expert in directing the work of the dogs but the fact that many of the handlers were physically unfit for combat service and had had no experience in infantry tactics, scouting, and patrolling proved to be a serious defect. Another weakness of the early platoons was the failure to give them advanced training with Army Ground Forces units of the kind with which they were to be associated.

To correct these deficiencies the War Dept. transferred the responsibility for the activation, training and preparation of the dog units for overseas movement to the AGF later in 1944.

This meant that handlers were to be selected by the Army Ground Forces from men who had been trained in infantry tactics and scouting and that the units would be given advanced instruction with infantry organizations. The Quartermaster General however, retained responsibility for the procurement, basic training, and issue of dogs and handlers.

A concurrent development was the decision to revise the T/O & E and eliminate all messenger dogs from the platoons, "Since combat reports indicate that this type dog has proved neither as desirable nor as essential as the silent scout dogs."

The new T/O & E, released in December 1944, changed the name of the units to infantry scout dog platoons and provided that each was to consist of 27 scout dogs.

Between December 1944 and the spring of 1945 the fifteen Quartermaster war dog platoons were redesignated as infantry scout dog platoons and reorganized to conform with the new T/O & E.

During 1945 the Army Ground Forces activated and trained six infantry scout dog platoons. Five of these however, did not complete their training until shortly after V-J Day and consequently were not sent overseas. Thus all but one of the war dog platoons that saw service in the war were activated and trained by the Quartermaster Corps.

German POW's...Hope The Dogs Liked Music!
Fort Robinson Had Both: Dogs And POWs!


At first the QMC war dog program was conducted largely as an experiment to determine which, if any, types of militarily trained dogs might be of value to the Army in modern warfare.

Numerous uses for the animals had been envisioned by dog fanciers but after extensive tests the Quartermaster Corps actually trained and issued dogs for only five types of duties.

Of these, pack & sled, mine detection and messenger dogs proved of slight service either because of superior facilities afforded by the latest mechanical devices or because of limitations on the part of the animals themselves.

The training of mine detection dogs was discontinued after tests in North Africa revealed they had no practical value. Opinion was divided concerning the usefulness of messenger dogs. Some observers reported excellent results under certain conditions but their use proved quite limited and the War Department eventually eliminated them from war dog platoons.

Keep Out...Vicious!

The two types of dogs for which a real need was demonstrated were sentry dogs and silent scout dogs. The sentry (attack) dog proved to be outstanding in guarding the Army and Navy installations, both in the zone of the interior and in the various theaters of operations, including the POW camps.

But insofar as tactical (combat) service was concerned, the silent scout dog alone survived the severe tests to which the animals were put in WW II. Scout dog platoons which emerged in the latter part of the war were found to be "a capable and valuable adjunct when properly trained and used."

The Tally!

By 1945 they had trained 10,425 dogs, 9,295 were for sentry duty, for the Army, Navy (Marines) and the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard alone, used 3,649 dogs for beach patrols, guarding against the threat of enemy submarine activities.

Fifteen platoons were activated, seven saw service in Europe and eight in the Pacific.

Although approximately 20,000 animals were procured, only about half of that number were trained and issued by the Quartermaster Corps, and fewer than 1,900 of these were shipped overseas. It was late in 1944 before scout dogs were being sent to the theaters in any sizable numbers, and by the end of the war only 436 had been shipped abroad, as shown in the following table:

Total Number of Dogs Issued in Z/I (Zone of Interior = US)  - Total Number of Dogs Shipped O/S

Type of Dog Total Trained Issued In ZI Shipped Overseas
Sentry 9,295 8,396   899
Scout    571    135   436
Sled & Pack    268        0   268
Messenger    151        0   151
Mine Detection    140        0   140
Total  10,425  8,531 1,894

These figures fail to give an accurate representation of the comparative military value of the various types of dogs, for, in contrast to all other types, the demand for scout dogs was increasing in the closing months of the war and plans were launched in the summer of 1945 to recruit at least 1,600 more of the animals for scout work in the Pacific.


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