When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor forcing the United States into war, a well known standard Poodle breeder, Arlene Erlanger, of Pillicoc Kennels noted that while other countries had used dogs in their war efforts for years, the United States had no national canine program. She volunteered some of her Poodles, as she envisioned them guarding munitions plants and the nation’s borders.
Soon there was a nationwide program, Dogs for Defense, which became the agency to recruit dogs for war. People were encouraged to enlist their dogs into the military or to donate to a fund.
In the spring of 1942 thirty-two breeds were classified as war dogs by the army, including the Poodle. The Poodle was known to be highly intelligent and easy to train. The drawback was their coat that required constant cutting to prevent matting.
In late 1943 that acceptable list was cut to 18 breeds, still including Poodles. By the end of 1944 the list was cut to five, finally eliminating the Poodle. In 1946 the German Shepherd was named the official US Army dog. Doberman Pinschers were named the official Marine war dog.
Although Poodles were never shipped overseas, they were used frequently on the home front, guarding defense plants, military installations, and the nation's coastline.
The reason Poodles did not make the final cut as military dogs comes as no surprise to people who know and love them. The qualities of a military dog and of the K-9 police dog are the exact opposite of what a Poodle is.
The military dog leads a strict life where he associates only with his handlers and is taught to be suspicious of everyone else.
Anyone who has ever owned a well bred Poodle knows that living without human companionship is just not in their nature. Poodles love all mankind. They love to entertain; they love an audience. They would not be above consorting with the enemy if the enemy gave them affection.
While they can be trained as guard dogs, it is not in their natures to be commando or attack dogs. And a Poodle with an unkempt coat is just not a happy camper.
It is the heart and soul of the Poodle that has made it a gentle, intelligent family pet and prevents it from becoming an effective police or military dog.
Further details on Poodles in war