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Are Pitbulls Used as Military Working Dogs? Separating Fact from Myth.


Last updated on December 3rd, 2023 at 07:27 pm

No, the United States military does not typically use Pit Bulls as military working dogs (meaning working dogs being handled by military personnel) and is not utilizing any at the moment. However, they had been used occasionally in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as contracted working dogs (working dogs with civilian handlers) trained by programs such as Dogs for Defense.

According to Dan Hughes of Dogs for Defense, there was a small handful of Pit Bulls that did make it to Iraq as military working dogs for explosive detection.  However, he did state that most contracted working dogs are trained for jobs that only require the use of their nose, such as explosive or narcotic detection.

I can tell you from owning a Pit Bull that they do have one heck of a sniffer!

Let’s explore the history and use of Pit Bulls in military work, including the earliest uses of Pit Bulls in war and the controversies and ethical concerns that stem from using this breed in military work.

black pit bull in front of an american flag

Were Pit Bulls Ever Used As War Dogs?

Pit Bulls have a long history as loyal, loving, brave, and intelligent dogs. Previously known mostly as fighting dogs, they have since become beloved family pets.

But did you know that Pit Bulls have also been used as war dogs?

During World War I, Pit Bulls were used by the United States military as guard dogs and sentries. They were also used to transport messages and supplies, as well as search for wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

What Are the Controversy and Ethical Concerns of Using Pit Bulls

in the Military?

Controversies surrounding the use of Pit Bulls in military work have provoked heated debate among dog lovers. Pit bulls have long been renowned for their intelligence, strength and bravery, making them an ideal choice for bomb disposal and army patrolling. However, their physical appearance—combined with stereotypes perpetuated by the media—can lead to a distrust or initial fear in those encountering the dogs.

The debate hinges on the question of whether the concerns surrounding Pit Bulls are well-founded or simply overblown bias. Some argue that in light of their temperament and loyalty, any objections directed at these dogs are unfounded; others call for greater restrictions on their use in military settings.

It is important to remember that any breed of dog can be trained for any purpose, and that the ethical treatment of all animals should always be taken into consideration.

One should carefully consider both sides of this debate before making a decision about whether or not to employ pit bulls in military work.

Before selecting any breed as a service animal, trainers must ensure that the chosen animal is psychologically well-suited for working environments and situations that may require it to act instinctively without hesitation.

It is also crucial to take into account any potential negative consequences associated with using a particular breed in certain scenarios. Ultimately, the choice between using a certain breed and foregoing its use should depend on careful deliberation by experts based on an unbiased assessment and understanding of an individual dog’s history as well as its psychological profile.

Pitbulls have been used in military operations in the past, but they are not the most common breed chosen for military working dog programs. This is partly due to their stigmatization as aggressive and dangerous dogs, which can make it more difficult to find suitable candidates.

What is the Modern Use of Pit Bulls in the Military?

Today, Pit Bulls are not officially used by the United States military as working dogs.

However, programs such as Dogs for Defense occasionally train Pit Bulls to be used as contracted working dogs for the military and there have been several Pit Bulls used as mascots over the years.

Who is the Most Famous Pit Bull War Dog?

The most famous war dog of all time (Pit Bull or other) is undoubtedly Sergeant Stubby.

Stubby: Terrier Hero of Georgetown, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Who is Stubby?

Stubby is a famous “Unofficial-Official” who served in the U.S. military during World War I.

He was found as a stray by Corporal Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th Yankee Division, in New Haven, CT, and quickly became a beloved mascot of the regiment.

When the 102nd Infantry was shipped to France, Stubby went along as a stowaway, and when he was discovered the commanding officer allowed him to stay, working his way up to the rank to Sargeant.

Stubby was trained to respond to bugle calls, salute officers, and even locate wounded soldiers on the battlefield. He was even awarded several medals for his service.

Sargeant Stubby was an invaluable member of the infantry and was decorated and celebrated as such long after the war ended. 

edited by User:Patrickneil, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Why Doesn’t the Military Use Pit Bulls?

The military does not use pit bulls for a variety of reasons.

  • Firstly, pit bulls are not typically bred to be obedient and disciplined, which is a necessary trait for any military working dog.
  • Secondly, some feel that Pit Bulls are known to be aggressive and unpredictable, which can make them dangerous in certain situations.
  • Thirdly, Pit Bulls require more intensive training than other breeds of dogs due to their strong personalities and independent nature.

Despite their use in military operations, pit bulls are still often stigmatized as aggressive and dangerous dogs. This stigma is often fueled by media coverage of pitbull attacks, which tends to be disproportionate to the number of attacks by other breeds.

However, research has shown that breed is not a reliable predictor of dog aggression. Factors such as socialization, training, and genetics all play a role in a dog’s behavior, and any breed of dog can be aggressive if it is not properly socialized and trained.

What Dog Breeds Does the Military Use?

The United States military has been using dogs in its operations since World War I, and the breed of dog used depends on the specific task.

For example, German Shepherds are often used for patrol and detection work, while Labrador Retrievers are used for search and rescue missions. The military also uses Belgian Malinois for explosive detection and protection work.

In general, military working dogs are chosen for their intelligence, trainability, and ability to perform specific tasks such as detecting explosives or drugs, searching for missing people, or protecting their handlers.

My Personal Notes:

While pit bulls may have a reputation for being aggressive and dangerous, this stereotype is not supported by research or the experiences of many pit bull owners and trainers. Instead, pit bulls are intelligent, loyal, and affectionate dogs that can make excellent companions and working dogs.

Despite their stigmatization, pit bulls have the potential to excel as military working dogs if they are given the opportunity. They are intelligent, loyal, and physically capable dogs that can be trained to perform a wide range of tasks.


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