Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2017


For thousands of years man and canine have hunted, fought, and survived together, eventually strengthening their relationship and reaching the bond experienced in modern times. Although scientists remain unsure as to when canine domestication began, modern dogs are dramatically different from their ancestors in more ways than merely the size of their snout.[1] While World War I signaled a new era of warfare for humans, the role dogs played was not new or unfamiliar. Dogs battled alongside humans since the Stone Age, performed sentry duty under Napoleon’s rule of Alexandria and acted as scouts in the Spanish-American War.[2] Despite their well-documented history of service during war, the only dogs owned by the United States military upon the outbreak of World War I were a handful of Alaskan sled dogs.[3] Until Congress passed the National Defense Act of 1916, America lacked any properly trained or established military veterinary units who could handle care these animals would require.[4] This paper explores the canine experience in the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) in an attempt to understand the roles these dogs performed, the effects they had on the humans they worked alongside, and how their affection was returned to their humans.

[1] James Gorman, "The Big Search to Find Out Where Dogs Come From," The New York Times, January 18, 2016,

[2] Michael G. Lemish, War Dogs: A History of Loyalty and Heroism (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 1996), 1-8.

[3] Lemish, War Dogs, 21.

[4] Congress of the United States of America, National Defense Act of 1916, H.R. 12766, June 3 1916.


Amanda Larsh won Third Place in the 2016-2017 Kevin and Tam Ross Undergraduate Research Prize for her essay about the experiences of canine units in the American military during World War I. This essay is the original scholarship that emerged from that research.