Dogs have fought alongside man since ancient times. The Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, and others used dogs as sentries and scouts and sometimes brought dogs into combat. Attila the Hun used fierce Mastiff-like breeds that were sometimes armored and sent into battle.

In more modern times, Germany created military dog-training programs late in the 19th century, and European armies used dogs during World War I to find wounded soldiers, carry supplies, and as messengers. Although dogs have worked alongside soldiers since the Civil War in the U.S., it wasn’t until World War II that the first K-9 corps was created. They were officially recognized in the U.S. on March 13, 1942. Today, military working dogs are a vital part of the armed forces, both in the U.S. and around the world. But unlike in earlier times, these dogs are treated as valuable and respected assets, soldiers on four legs.

The U.S. military uses dogs in all branches of the service. Dogs are trained for specific jobs, including tracking, explosive detection, patrol, search and rescue, and attack. Their work is invaluable, and it’s no wonder that these dogs are precious resources.

In fact, they’re in such high demand that there is currently a scarcity of trained Military Working Dogs (MWD). According to Air Force statistics, the number of dogs is about 38 percent lower than during the height of the war in Afghanistan.

Caring for these dogs in the field is a major concern. Typically, a dog’s handler has been completely responsible for his care, including veterinary first aid should the dog be wounded in the field. Now, the Department of Defense is taking steps to ensure that these canine heroes get the care they need, both immediately in the field and beyond.

Unlike in ancient times, when a dog was merely a weapon, Military Working Dogs today are seen by the troops as fellow warriors, deserving the same quality of care and medical attention as their human counterparts. Training medics how to treat wounded working dogs in real-life situations ensures that these canine heroes are getting the respect and care they have so bravely earned.

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