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A distinguished history of four-legged service

The use of dogs to assist veterans with PTS is a reasonably new practice, but dogs have a long history of assisting armed forces during conflict.

According to archeologists, dogs have been used in warfare since they were first domesticated more than 15,000 years ago.

There are written records of war dogs being used in the ancient Kingdom of Lydia – located in modern day Turkey. Alyattes, the Empire’s first ruler, had his soldiers turn packs of dogs loose on Cimmerian troops around 600 BC.

The Roman army bred their own war dogs, Canis Molossus or Molossian, for combat, and Spanish Conquistadores released a mixed breed of deerhound and mastif to devour any enemy they could sink their teeth into.

During the First and Second World Wars, dogs proved their value as pack animals, stretcher-bearers, bomb sniffers and even sentries. In fact, during World War Two, American families were called upon to volunteer their pooches to help defeat the Axis.

Some of Australia’s best remembered dogs of war served with Combat Tracker Teams that were used in Vietnam from 1967 until 1971.

Each Tracker Team, consisting of the two dogs and their handlers, two visual trackers, and two covermen (a machine-gunner and a signaller), operated on standby out of Nui Dat. Usually called out to follow up enemy trails or to locate suspected enemy hideouts after a contact, the teams would be airlifted by helicopter into the area of operations.

The dogs were outstandingly successful at their combat tasks in Vietnam. Apart from their success in locating enemy and their support systems, the dogs saved the lives of their handlers and team members on many occasions.

Now, through the Operation K9 program, dogs continue to serve with distinction.


The Australian Army Trackers Memorial, Goolwa, South Australia.
Photograph courtesy of the Australian Army Trackers & War Dogs Association

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