Sunday, June 13, 2021


Summer Holidays

May 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Dog Activities and Training

As we roll toward Memorial Day weekend, this is a good time to look at the summer holidays and what you will do with your dog. There are only so many grilled hot dogs your dog should consume, after all!

Memorial Day

In addition to being the traditional start of summer, Memorial Day (as you know) has a much deeper meaning. It is the time when we honor our fallen soldiers, both human and canine.

Dogs were used informally as early as World War I, but it wasn’t until World War II that specific K-9 units were set up. Not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Quartermaster Corps of the United States Army asked the AKC and a group known as “Dogs for Defense” to request donations of quality animals to help save the lives of our soldiers in combat. The Army’s K-9 Corps was officially begun on March 13, 1942. Over the next three years, over 19,000 dogs were donated, but only about half were accepted into the training program.

At first the program accepted more than 30 breeds, but the list was soon narrowed to German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Dobies, Collies, and Giant Schnauzers. Original estimates were that only 200 dogs were needed, but that number ended up being far from adequate, particularly when the program was expanded to include the Navy and Coast Guard in the autumn of 1942.

The original program used civilian volunteer trainers, but when the demand for sentry dogs exploded, training responsibilities were turned over to the Quartermaster’s Remount Branch. Dogs were trained for 8 – 12 weeks in a rigid military routine. General training for all dogs included getting used to muzzles, gas masks, gunfire, and riding in vehicles, in addition to more traditional obedience training.

Dogs were then trained specifically for their intended duty. Sentry dogs were taught to give warnings when potential attackers were near, while scout dogs were taught to remain silent to prevent detection of the soldiers on patrol. Messenger dogs were trained to work with two handlers – one on each end of the communication loop, and to work alone and quietly while traveling between them. Mine dogs were trained to find booby traps and trip wires, although the dogs had trouble performing these duties under combat conditions in Northern Africa.

Although many of the dogs performed with outstanding records, they were originally not allowed to be awarded combat medals. This rule was relaxed in January, 1944 to allow publication of canine commendations in each unit’s General Orders.

The dogs used in World War II were subsequently rehabilitated for civilian life and returned to their original owners or sold to the public by early 1947. However, the war dog program was continued. In the Korean War, about 1,500 dogs were used, while in Vietnam about 4,000 dogs deployed and saved as many as 10,000 soldiers from death or injury. Official records show 281 dogs were killed in action.

Check out the War Dogs web site if you’re interested in learning more.

A memorial located at the Hartsdale New York Pet Cemetery was dedicated in 1922 to World War I dogs, while a memorial on Guam honors dogs that served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Other memorials are located at March Air Force Base in California and at the Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. They are both bronze statues of a dog and handler in Vietnam-era combat gear, sculpted by A. Thomas Schomberg

On pedestals near the statues, over 400 dogs’ names and their Preston Brand serial number are engraved. These are the dogs who have been killed in action since World War II. In all, twelve pedestals are on display, each paid for by various dog handling groups. The organizer of this monumental effort was a retired Sergeant named Jesse Mendez, who served for 21 years in the United States Army training dogs and their handlers to be combat ready.

You can donate to the War Dogs Memorial Fund, and for a donation of $10 or more, you will receive a copy of the “War Dogs, America’s Forgotten Heroes” documentary, which was originally seen on the Discovery Channel. According to the War Dogs’ web site, the movie was produced to educate America about the war dogs and the pivotal role they played in the Vietnam War. It tells the heart-wrenching story of the bond between the dogs and their handlers and the great lengths they each took to save one another from the tragedies of war. It also recounts less than 200 of these valiant dogs returned to America at the close of the war, and how none of them were honored.

There is also a separate organization, known as the United States War Dogs Association. This site has a much wider focus than the other organizations. Their web site features news of dogs most recently used in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as tributes to dogs of previous wars.. They also have a selection of patriotic dog-related merchandise for sale. Proceeds benefit working military K-9 teams such as by sending care packages to their forward bases.

Patriotic dog celebrating Fourth of July

Fourth of July

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, you might be interested in checking out our article about Presidential dogs in our doggies den.

The biggest consideration for Independence Day is keeping your dog safe and calm during the numerous fireworks displays, both official ones and those unofficially put on in your neighbor’s backyard. According to a story published by the Humane Society of the United States, one family returned home after about four hours of celebrating to find their back door open, their dog gone, and their family room covered in feces. Seems the dog had panicked and lost control of her bowels, then had worked open the back door, tunneled under the fence and struck out to find the family to rescue them from the horrible noise of the fireworks. The dog’s body was found along a road she often walked.

Animal shelters are often over-run on July 5th with dogs who run off during fireworks displays because they are so scared of the noise. According to Nancy Peterson of the HSUS, “with a little bit of planning and forethought, you can enjoy the excitement of the Fourth of July and know that your animal companion is safe, sound, and enjoying a little peace and quiet,”

Some suggestions for that planning: leave your dog at home during the celebration. They can’t stay in the car because it is likely too hot, and they really won’t appreciate being with you at the fireworks. If you can, keep the windows closed to muffle the noise of any nearby firecrackers, and be sure to put away anything the dog is likely to chew up when he or she becomes upset. You might consider leaving the television or radio on to distract the dog from the outside noise.

If your dog needs medication to get through a thunderstorm, give him or her a dose of the medicine before you leave to help with anxiety. Under no circumstances should a panicky dog have to put up with being left outside. They are likely to burrow out of their enclosure or become tangled in their chains when they are agitated. Make sure your dog is wearing tags so if he or she does get loose, you have some chance of someone returning your best friend to you.

Labor Day

And this brings us to the end of summer, which just wouldn’t be the same without the traditional cook-out. Remember to keep your dog away from the hot grill, and don’t let him or her eat too many foods that are not part of the normal diet. A dog who normally eats only kibble can develop a huge case of intestinal problems after a day of gorging on picnic food and rich desserts.

While you have guests at your house, be sure everyone knows to shut the gates to your yard if your dog is outside to prevent any escapes, and make sure you dog is wearing his or her identification tags in case an accidental escape does occur.

Enjoy the summer with your dog, and by all means take the time to thank our veterans on memorial day. Don’t forget to take the proper precautions to protect your dog for the whole summer, especially on holidays.

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