Scout Dogs in Vietnam | The German Shepherd
All four branches of the United States military used dogs; over 10,000 individual members of the military were designated as dog “handlers” with all the responsibilities that this entailed, and it is suggested that the use of dogs in the military saved over 10,000 lives in Vietnam alone. Dogs tended to serve in one of four different capacities. They could be scout dogs, part of a team that usually featured one German Shepherd Dog and one handler. The Scout Dog Team would join a troop unit – generally an infantry unit – and would walk “point” ahead of the other troops, searching for potential signs of danger and peril, such as trip wires, snipers, mines, or potential ambushes, as well as for potential aids such as hidden caches of food or weapons.
The dog, who could travel relatively obscured by the underbrush and unseen by any enemies, would know to signal his handler as to the presence of any of these items of interest, and the handler could likewise signal to the patrol leader, letting him know whether or not to move ahead, and potentially saving the lives of all the troops involved in the mission.
These dogs and handlers were often trained in Georgia, at Fort Benning, while others were trained OJT – in-country – when the mission required it. Still others began as part of a Combat Tracker Team.