The Tragedy of Bomb Dogs

Anti Tank Dog Harness Diagram (

Anti-Tank Dog Harness Diagram (

I grew up in a home with 3-5 dogs at any given time, all of them rescues. I bet a lot of you know what I mean when I say they have been family to me for years and filled our house with clumps of hair, slobbery lips, and oceans of pee (you kind of become immune). But even better than this (and what’s better than dog smell?), was the friendship, protection, and love that could reach 15 years plus. Thus, this documentary was a real treat to me.

The focus on Eugenics got me thinking about how streamlined and specialized many breeds have become, and how awesome it is that they have adapted to flourish in certain conditions. Rescue dogs, seeing eye dogs, and sniffer dogs are just a few modern occupations that I admire and love to see.

When the documentary focused on the Sulimov dogs, I perked up. I disagree with dogs being used for war and combat, so at first I worried that this was their purpose. But to know that they were only bred as sniffers to prevent terrorism and find contraband was a real relief. They are heroes in their own right. This made me wonder about less fortunate dogs that really have been forced into human warfare in the past. I did some quick research on this topic.

Soviet Military Dog Training School, 1931 (Wikipedia)

Soviet Military Dog Training School, 1931 (Wikipedia)

In WWII, the Russians made use of anti-tank dogs to curb German tank invasions. The explosives would be strapped to their bodies in canvas bags before the dogs were sent to detonate near enemy war machines. Thankfully, the project was largely unsuccessful. Maybe a few generations of eugenically designed pups would have produced a truly good bomb dog, but this is a horrid thought to think of. Eugenics and these ‘high concept designs’ seem to be beneficial to canines if they diversify their gene pool, help prevent hereditary disease, and produce dogs happy in their environments, but to make a different species into a walking weapon for war is both inhumane and inhuman.

Other countries attempted the anti-tank dog idea, including America, Japan, and Vietnam, but the risks proved too great. Dogs could easily spook in the chaos of battle and run back to their masters with the ticking packages in tow. Today, dogs are still being bred for the service, but not as commonly in a suicidal role (some terrorists recently attempted this in the last decade). Hopefully, one day all canine soldiers will be entirely replaced by unmanned drones.

The Big Dog Drone (Boston Dynamics)

The Big Dog Drone (Boston Dynamics)

Eugenics and its utility for war calls to mind questions of how far humans really should go in bending other species to our needs. In a perfect world, no animal would ever need to be bred for slaughter, either for food or the front. But is it even acceptable for humans to make different breeds adapted for water, speed, endurance, and specific jobs? I believe that as long as the breed is not stringently kept ‘pure’ (so that hereditary disease from interbreeding does not appear), and the dogs are happy and enjoy a wonderful life, eugenics seems to be a harmless. However, this falters when a focus on unique breeding puts more mutts in shelters and decreases their value in the public eye. I digress, but there is NO DIFFERENCE between an expensive purebreed and a mangy mutt found in a pound. All dogs need a home.

My canine companions have added so much to my life over the years. We owe it to all dogs to be responsible with this unbreakable bond we share. We must practice eugenics with good intentions.

Young Sniffer Dogs (CBS Baltimore)

Young Sniffer Dogs (CBS Baltimore)


3 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Bomb Dogs

  1. I had no idea dogs were used as suicide bombers in war like scenarios. It is really good to know they are no longer used for that purpose. I wonder though would it be a genetic trait or a trait acquired after learning that could determine weather these dogs would have thrived in such a way. Not that I am hoping this is a way they were raised but did they start training them as adults or as puppies?

    • I know, it’s terrible… I’m pretty sure they began training them as puppies, but no animal can go into a warzone without freaking out at the chaos! Even a hardcore adult one, I’m sure.

  2. A similar thing happened with dolphins and other marine mammals. The Navy’s Marine Mammal Program began in the 1960s. It’s purpose is to train certain types of whales and dolphins to deliver equipment to divers, guard submarines, find mines, carry surveillance cameras, and a variety of other tasks. I learned about this from a podcast on Mysterious Universe. With further research I failed to learn about how the safety of the marine animals involved was being protected and it got me worrying. How many animals have died due to their military training?

    Dolphins are extremely intelligent creatures. I feel like our use of them in the military is some kind of abuse of their trust.

    I found this video:

    Dolphins benefit form this just as much as the humans do. This is what the relationship between a dolphin and human should be. Something symbiotic, not parasitic.

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