This article explores the militarization of dogs in France from the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war to the Armistice of 1918. Following the defeat of Germany in 1871, a handful of French army officers promoted dogs as essential military auxiliaries that would compensate for deficiencies in French masculinity and emotions. Militarizing the nineteenth-century narrative of dogs as emotionally sensitive creatures, trainers argued that interspecies love and attachment would provide the necessary foundation for harnessing dogs towards military ends. After a hesitant start, the army mobilized thousands of rescue, sentry, and messenger dogs during the First World War. This official enlistment of dogs existed alongside soldiers' unofficial pet-keeping. Indifferent to soldiers' emotional reliance on dogs, the army sought to police and prevent these informal human-dog attachments. This article contributes to the growing scholarly interest in animals and warfare through engagement with the history of emotions. It argues that training and pet-keeping were "emotional practices" (to use Monique Scheer's term) that created bonds between dogs and humans. To understand human-canine relations we need to set them within their particular historical context and explore how face-to-face encounters between humans and dogs combine with cultural narratives to bind the species together in meaningful, varied, and sometimes conflictual ways.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 731-760
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.