Ultimo aggiornamento:  04.11.2019 16.11
September 12, 2015

dogs of war up to date

The Sunday Globe, 1900 - Image provided by Minnesota Historical Society. Courtesy of Library of Congress


Though the success of the Germans with dogs of war to be used for outpost and guard duty has not been much better than tentative, dogs for another form of military service have done so well that some are to be sent to the British forces in Africa. They can be forwarded by the Germans without danger of violation of neutrality laws, for they are Red Cross dogs.

It is J. Bungartz, the famous animal painter, who has been Instrumental in adding this new factor to the medical corps of the army. For many years he and his friends in the association founded by him, the German Association for Life-Saving Dogs, have been working with various breeds to select the best dog for use in finding and succoring wounded men on the field of battle after the fighting is done. The association has 600 members, and counts among its most enthusiastic supporters and workers Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The final result of their experiments has been the selection of the Scotch collie as the best breed for the purpose, and now there are several hundred of these fine animals in the service. The German public takes much interest in the humanitarian objects of the association and extends a considerable amount of financial aid. This enables the association to give a certain number of trained dogs to the army every year without charge.

The collies that are to be trained for military service are selected carefully from the best stock. They are taken in hand before they have been subjected to training or breaking of any kind, and their teaching is given to them in the open country from the very beginning. A leading principle of the training is that the dogs must be taught in such a manner that they will perform their work for fun and with real enjoyment. Therefore coercion is positively avoided, and even the voice is modulated carefully in addressing the dogs.

It is delightful to see the enthusiasm and ready intelligence with which the animals go about their day's work. They are up and out in the fields at dawn and remain hard at it till about noon. While gentleness is the watchword, firmness is used also, and each dog must do his task correctly, even if he has to keep at it for hours. After the noon hour the collies troop back to the kennels, where their grand coats are cleaned and brushed till they shine. Then comes the feeding hour, and after that the dogs are permitted to play or loaf, just as they please.

The first steps in training are to teach the animals to obey signal or word or whistle, no matter how faint or low. Then they learn to report at certain places that are shown to them. After they have mastered this, which is a most difficult task for the puppies, they learn to guard the packages which contain the Red Cross outfits till the surgeon appears. These duties all being mastered, the great work of teaching them to find wounded men begins. At first the work is carried on in meadows and open fields, without cover or bushes. As the collies learn, more and more difficult territory is selected, until each dog is able to find a hidden man without fail, no matter how rough the country or how thick and difficult the cover.

There generally are from ten to twenty dogs steadily in course of training, so that each year a good number can be presented to the army.

Each collie carries a little bundle, with emergency bandages and stimulants. At night he carries a bell besides, so that the men can follow him.

During the recent great maneuvers of the German army the Eighth army corps tried the dogs under the most difficult circumstances that could be devised, and the result was declared to have been magnificent. In twenty minutes one band of dogs found twelve soldiers, who had been hidden away in the most inaccessible underbrush.