The Soviet War Dogs of WWII

By Randi Barrow

The Soviet War Dogs of WWII

Dog trainer from the Red Star Kennel in Russia with a Black Russian terrier, c. 1955.

In the former Soviet Union twenty million people were killed during WWII. Hitler’s order in dealing with the Russians was, “Scruples of any sort are a crime against the German people.” Both the human and animal populations suffered starvation, and death. Is it any wonder the Soviets had such hatred for the invading Germans and all things German? Could a German shepherd expect mercy when it was the favored dog of the Nazis throughout the war, when even Hitler himself had chosen one as a pet? Not likely.

The Russians trained fifty thousand dogs for military service. Some were the “suicide dogs” that blew up German tanks at the price of their own lives. Other dogs sniffed out the wounded and dragged them to safety: some wore medical packs on their backs and helped injured men when no one else could get through. Sled teams pulled large guns into position without a sound. They sniffed out land mines, delivered food and ammunition, and saved thousands of lives.

By the end of the war there were almost no dogs left in the USSR. Imagine a world without pets, guard dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs. Only the Soviet government had the resources to tackle the problem. It took them seven years to develop a new breed of dog, one fit for working and military purposes, and family use – the Black Russian terrier. Ironically, two of the dog breeds that contributed most to the new Russian dog, were German dogs: the Rottweiler and the giant schnauzer.

About the author: Randi Barrow was an adoption attorney for 20 years before she became a writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband musician/composer Arthur Barrow, and their handsome Chihuahua, Manuel.

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  1. Steve Harding says

    This looks like the perfect book for my friend’s 10 year old son to read. He likes all things canine and all things WW II. It sounds like a compelling mix of both topics!

  2. s g sterrett says

    I fear parts of it will be hard to read, but it’s so wonderful you’ve written this book to tell this story. Animals and the human-animal relationship are getting more and more attention in philosophy these days.

  3. Carol Wong says

    Feel so sorry for the suicide dogs. It must have been so lonely without dogs after the war. Would love to read this book.


  4. Brian Benson says

    War dogs of any country have traditionally been forgotten. They have been the best of friends and allies, and have been treated the worst (often left “in-country” after the conflict. Thanks for coming up with this story-looking forward to reading it.

  5. librarypat says

    Dogs have played such an important role in civilization. We have relied upon them to help us in our work and made them part of our families. We have loved them and abused them. Many people don’t realize just how important dogs have been to the troops during war. Unfortunately, too often they are disposable items when no longer needed.
    Always looking for good dog stories.

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

  6. says

    So far I’ve learned about White Gold (the white slave-trade) and the flu pandemic of 1918. I’m hooked! Give me more! The Soviet Dogs of WWII would be a great next step.

  7. Jessica B says

    My daughter just asked for this book the other day and now I see it on here! She’s fascinated by WWII stories and has asked if I’d enter the giveaway on her behalf. It sounds like an interesting bit of history!

  8. Tami Hartsook says

    I found this site, because I saw your book in the Scholastic book order. I am considering the book for my 6th grade class to read.

  9. says

    The fur of the medium-haired Black Russian Terrier is wavy, while the
    short-haired is straight. Their color is black, or black with some grey hair.
    But, grey fur must be evenly distributed and not found in patches. The Black
    Russian is highly intelligent.

  10. Caroline says

    I would love to be able to find a breeder of Russian Black Terriers in Europe.  I have been looking for sometime without any luck.  If anyone knows of a breeder or someone who can no longer house their russian Black, for whatever reasons, i would be more than pleased to contact them to arrange purchase.

  11. Checkov says

    In one of the first and biggest “bomb-dog” attacks the German troops watched the rushing packs of excited dogs approach. They then opened fire, the surviving dogs both wounded and terrified did the natural thing. They ran back to their owners killing many soviet troops and destroying several vehicles. According to this eyewitness account the dog attacks were rare after that.

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