The History of Military Dog Handlers

The use of military dog handlers dates as far back in history as the ancient Egyptians.  The Egyptians would unleash their dogs into enemy ranks during battle.  This broke up enemy formations, and made them vulnerable to cavalry charges.  The ancient Romans would expand the roles of military dog handlers and their canine partners.  Military dogs made excellent scouts, trackers, and sentries.  In combat they posed a psychological threat to their opponents.  Dogs do not fear the same way humans do.  At times they were set on fire and unleashed into enemy towns, camps, or battle formations.

Marine Military Dog Handlers during WWII Marine Tee Shirts | USMC Beanies

The military dog begins it’s history in the United States shortly after WWI.  During the war, American forces borrowed dogs from the British and French.   When the war ended, the Marine Corps began to experiment own military dog program.  In Haiti during 1920 dogs were used to expose ambushes.  Furthermore, military dogs were mention the The Small Wars Operations Manual.  Chapter 24 states, “Dogs have been employed to indicate the presence of a hidden enemy, particularly ambushes.” The Marine Corps officially adopted the use of military dogs in 1942.  The Marine Corps military dog handler training center was located in Camp Legeune.

Marine Corps Dog Handlers on Patrol Marine Tee Shirts | USMC Beanies

Marine Corps Dog Handlers OEF/OIF

Canines have a very strong sense of smell.  This came in good use in the United States war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many patrol routes were laden with homemade explosives and a variety of other exploding ordinance.  Military Dog Handlers and their K-9s were used to effectively clear out danger areas.  The only weakness that K-9s posses while patrolling is their inability to sustain themselves for extended length of time.  A dog may be able to sprint for a short distance, however because they do not sweat, they tire easily.  Great care is taken by Marine Corps Dog Handlers to ensure that they are properly rested before clearing danger areas.  Furthermore, it is the Marine Corps Dog Handlers responsibility to ensure their K-9s are properly hydrated.