Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American Kennel Association and an organization called Dogs for Defense, called for dog owners across the country to donate quality canines to the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. As the U.S. military went on the offensive in World War II, a new focus was to supply dogs for combat assistance through the K-9 Corps.
On March 13, 1942, Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson signed a letter that authorized the Quartermaster General to officially induct dogs into the war effort. They arrived by the thousands in all shapes and sizes. Initially there were 30 breeds accepted that were later narrowed down to just five: German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Farm Collies and Giant Schnauzers.
The first War Dog Reception and Training Center was established at Front Royal, Virginia, in August 1942. An initial estimate was that about 200 dogs would be needed, but that estimate changed quickly as requirements increased. Reception and training were transferred to the Quartermaster Remount Branch, while Dogs for Defense continued successfully to solicit donations of dogs from all of the 48 states. Numerous qualified civilian trainers came forward to volunteer their time and expertise, without pay. The program proved to be highly successful.
In the fall of 1942, a K-9 Quartermaster Corps training center was established at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Thousands of dogs were trained for war duty and were used to guard facilities, carry messages, sniff out mines, and pull sleds. The Quartermaster Corps trained the dog handlers, most of whom were quartermaster soldiers. A technical manual was designed in July 1943: TM 10-396, War Dogs, contained the doctrine for training and deployment.
Total training time was normally eight to 12 weeks. Basic training included such fundamental commands as "sit," "stay," "come," and others. The dogs also were introduced to muzzles, gas masks, gunfire and riding in vehicles. If the dogs passed the basic training routines, they were transferred to one of four specialized training programs where they underwent rigorous military training.
The four classes consisted of sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs and mine dogs.