The Sad and Remarkable Soviet Anti-Tank Dogs

The tale of communist puppy suicide bombers

Grant Piper

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Soviet dog training school (Public domain)

In the years following the Russian Revolution, the new Soviet military command was looking for novel ways to modernize and improve their lagging military capabilities. To address this issue, the Revolutionary Military Council of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics approved the training and use of dogs in 1924. The edict called for a dog training school to be opened in Moscow. This quickly spread, and at its height, there were twelve such training schools spread throughout the Soviet Union.

At first, the dogs were trained for field tasks such as ferrying first aid to wounded soldiers, search and rescue missions, and communication. But as the program expanded, a new idea was explored: anti-tank dogs.

The idea was to have a dog run up to a tank and drop a live explosive charge before returning to its handler to retrieve another bomb. But as training commenced, it was found that the idea had some serious issues.

The dogs could not drop their explosives consistently and would often return to the handler with the explosive still intact, a flaw that could prove lethal. The dogs were also inconsistent and easily confused by the hectic conditions on the simulated battlefields. The idea of noble Soviet hounds blowing up enemy armor seemed like a longshot.

A dark and desperate turn

In 1941 with the German invasion of the Soviet Union, things turned desperate. The entire Red Army was in a frantic retreat. Losses to both men and territory were stunningly high. In a last-ditch effort to try and stem the tide, the Soviets gave a grave order.

The anti-tank dog program was to be converted from a round trip mission into a one-way ticket. The dogs were to be equipped with impact detonators instead of dropping the bombs. The dogs would be killed in the explosion.

In 1941, 30 of these anti-tank dogs were deployed to the front, but the results were poor. The confusion and inconsistency observed in training manifested themselves on the battlefield. The dogs were often frightened of gunfire, refused to get close to moving tank treads, and would run wildly when spooked.

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Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.