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The Advantage Family™ - A Diggers Best Friend

Since World War I dogs have been an integral part of life on the battlefield.

Topic of the Month: A Digger’s Best Friend

Since World War I, animals have been an integral part of life on the battlefield. Horses have carried heavy supplies and equipment, pigeons have been used to transport messages and cats have been around as emotional support and companionship, and defending the food of human soldiers from hungry little rats and mice. Highly-trained military dogs have also been serving alongside their human comrades on the battlefield, including with Australian soldiers. They have been the eyes, ears and scent detectors, and also played a role in providing companionship and emotional support.

Why are dogs so important on the battlefield?

Dogs have highly developed senses for scent and sound, making them specialists in tracking and detection roles long before their human counterparts. They also have superior vision in low-light and at night compared to humans. Dogs are highly trainable, engaging in the guidance from their handler/s and enjoying the mental and physical stimulation, along with the rewards, of training. They are intelligent and consistently loyal to their handler/s. Animals of a range of breeds, sexes and ages have been used throughout the years. In World War I, German and Belgian Shepherds were most commonly used, but since this time, Labradors, the Australian Mutt, Great Danes, Airedale Terriers, Collies and Yorkshire Terriers have become an integral part of the team. All dogs are tested to find the most suitable role and then highly trained to that role. The dogs must be healthy, with no physical impairment when commencing training.

Roles of military dogs

  • Trackers and scouts: locating people (enemy or injured soldiers).
  • Detectors: locating explosives/mines/gas and acting as an early warning system (e.g. detecting enemy bombing planes up to 20 minutes away).
  • Messengers: providing routes for communication for supplies, assistance and warning.
  • Transporters: carrying of heavy machinery, carts and medical equipment.
  • Guarding: equipment and soldiers.
  • Therapy dogs: visiting hospitals full of wounded soldiers.
  • Military base set-up: laying down electrical wires through tunnels too small for humans (e.g. Smoky the Yorkshire Terrier).

Protection for the dogs:

Like their human counterparts, dogs have also been provided with protective equipment, such as specifically designed gas masks and bullet proof vests. Additionally, specially designed ear-pieces have been developed so that dog handlers (soldiers) can communicate and give commands to their dog from a distance, while they enter undetected into suspicious locations.

Awards and recognition:

During World War II, the Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross - was developed to recognise the work of animals during war, along with their bravery. It was founded by Mrs Maria Dickin, the originator of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals in England. The first medal was awarded to a carrier pigeon that travelled through an extreme tropical storm to relay a vital message and request help for a sinking army ship carrying important cargo. Since this time, more than 25 dogs have received the medal worldwide. The first organisation to award medals to military working dogs is the Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association. The War Dog Operation Medal with Clasps for dogs serving overseas and the Canine Service Medal for dogs serving at home.

Today:

Today, the Military Working Dogs are known as Special Operations Military Working Dogs (SOMWDs) and provide specialised detection, tracking and protection capabilities in support of Special Operations. For years, dogs have not been allowed back into Australia after war. They were highly trained and potentially dangerous, and the cost of quarantine for exotic diseases was very high. This was heartbreaking for Australian soldiers who had formed very strong bonds with these animals. Where possible, homes were found for the four legged diggers before the soldier returned home, but some were destroyed. Now, four legged soldiers are able to return home with their human counterparts, to retire on Australian soil as companion dogs.

For more information:

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Call The Advantage Pet Care Line on 1800 678 368.

Advocate for Dogs

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Travelling with Pets

Your guide to a safe, happy and relaxing holiday.

- ↓ -
Got a pet health question?

If you have a question on anything from parasites to pet health, ask us we don't bite!

Call The Advantage Pet Care Line on 1800 678 368.

Advocate for Dogs

Advocate is an easy-to-use spot-on flea, heartworm and worm treatment for dogs and puppies. Treats
Fleas, heartworm and worms

Travelling with Pets

- ↓ -

Your guide to a safe, happy and relaxing holiday.