Recently we celebrated Anzac Day, remembering the Australian and New Zealand Corps Soldiers who fought and died for our countries. Over the centuries, man’s best friend has assisted our soldiers in wars in the capacity of trackers, scent detectors for mines and explosives, guard dogs, companions and most importantly, to boost the morale of our troops.
Dogs were often used to carry messages in battle through the trenches and from point A to Point B. Some messenger dogs also performed other communication tasks, such as pulling telephone lines from one location to another.
In World War I, the Australian Military forces enlisted German Shepherds to watch over their valuable equipment. In Vietnam, our Australian Task Force had dogs as part of their combat tracking teams; they would search the thick and dense jungle to locate the enemy and were successful in saving the lives of their handlers and team mates.
What Makes a Good Combat Dog?
There are a number of attributes that go into making a combat dog, such as:
Interesting fact- Did you know that in World War II, special gas masks were designed for the dogs in combat?
However, it must be understood that not all dogs are cut out for combat; they must have the right personality, drive and assertion to be successful in these settings.
Popular War Dog Breeds
We love our 4-legged friends because they are extremely smart and intelligent creatures, and are loyal and devoted family members. It is these very same qualities that make some dog breeds useful in a war zone. They are highly dedicated to their handler and tend to develop very strong bonds with them. The most popular dog breeds for the armed forces include:
Dogs of these breeds that eventually do go on to becoming military dogs must be in great physical shape, reward-motivated, athletic and should have the right level of excitability and aggression. Aside from this, they should also be free of any physical maladies such as hip or elbow dysplasia.
The Story of Sarbi- The Australian Canine Hero
When there is talk about war dogs, Sarbi, the Australian canine hero cannot go without a mention. She was a black a Labrador - Newfoundland Cross that went missing when the Taliban ambushed our Australian Special Forces. Her handler, Corporal David Simpson was injured in this raging nine-hour battle. In all the commotion that ensued, the corporal lost Sarbi when the clip of the harness (that attached her to her handler), was shot off. The startled Sarbi fled in fright; and once the wounded soldiers had been transported away from the site, the soldiers searched high and low for Sarbi, in vain. After having gone missing for 3 weeks, they eventually declared her missing in action.
Thirteen months after this incident, a soldier spotted a dog in an Afghan village that had an uncanny resemblance to Sarbi. He used various military commands to test her and she responded to them which affirmed the fact that she was Sarbi. Fortunately, she had been well cared for; the village Chief who had grown very fond of her, was also very reluctant to let her go.
After a great deal of negotiations, they eventually let Sarbi go and she was brought back to base. After months of quarantine in Afghanistan as well as Australia, she was finally reunited with her beloved handler Corporal David Simpson- that’s where she spent her retirement as the Simpson family’s pet. Later in 2015, Sarbi succumbed to brain tumour and breathed her last at the age of 12.
The Army Honours Sarbi
Canberra’s Australian War Memorial has catalogued numerous stories of our brave war dogs, along with many other records of animal acts of bravery.
Hi I'm Sharon Osmond the owner and founder of K9 Swim. The Splash Blog is where I share tips and information on dog's health and safety and some fun facts and stories.