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Training a Dog with the Medic Corps, World War I, c. 1917

Dog Finding a "Wounded" Man in the Field. Two Men Bringing Stretcher

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_5412
Document Description
Training a dog with the medic corps, World War I, c. 1917.
What is the dog being trained to do?
How can you tell that this dog is being trained to assist medical officers?
Historical Challenges
The official use of dogs in the U.S. military began in WWII, although they were used before then unofficially. Dogs have participated in many wars since then. Research some famous military dogs and their accomplishments.
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a journal entry from a dog's perspective as he is assisting in battle.
Math: One dog that served in WWI traveled 4,000 meters over difficult terrain to carry a message from the front to one brigade’s headquarters. He made the trip in 60 minutes. How fast was he traveling?
Science: Breed is important when choosing dogs for military use. German shepherds are the standard dog chosen. Why do you think German shepherds make good military dogs?
Kopelman, Jay and Melinda Roth. From Baghdad with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2008. ISBN: 1599211823
Ruffin, Frances E. Military Dogs. New York, NY: Bearport Publishing, 2006. ISBN: 1597162736
Lemish, Michael. War Dogs: A History of Loyalty and Heroism. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 1999. ISBN: 1574882163


Historical Context
This dog is being trained to work in tandem with U.S. Army medical personnel.  The thick, white band around the dog is marked on both sides with the distinctive medical cross.

Dogs had an important role to play in World War I.  One of the primary reasons they were used was to carry messages between the front and military headquarters.  Trained dogs were faster than human runners and presented less of a target to the enemy.  Furthermore, dogs could travel over any terrain because they were not weighed down with heavy uniforms and equipment.  Dogs also, in many cases, provided psychological comfort for troops who were otherwise demoralized by the horrors of trench warfare.  

Rin Tin Tin was one of the most famous war dogs of World War I.  He was found by U.S. troops in an abandoned German war dog station in Lorraine, France.  He was brought back to the U.S. and was the star of over 40 films.
Essential Question
What role do animals play in historical events?
Check for Understanding
How did the animals shown in the picture contribute to the war effort?