The Allegorical Dog

In the mid 1930s, Japanese Imperial military officials seeing conflict on the Asian Continent grow preferred as their army dogs German Shepherd Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, and Airedale Terriers – in that order. In fact, 90% of all army dogs were shepherds. As proud as the Japanese were of their native breeds in that decade, most trainers working privately and for the government regarded these breeds as too small (with the exception of the Akita), and as Aaron Herald Skabelund points out in his book, Empire of Dogs, difficult to train to obey commands coming from anyone other than the dog’s owner.

We don’t have actual numbers to help us know how many, if any, Japanese breeds were in play on battlefields, but as Skabelund points out, the dogs still played a role as allegorical symbols to express Japanese superiority and the weakness of its foe. This was hardly unique to Japan.

Image of Japanese war dog circa 1937 found on Pinterest and happily credited upon receipt of information

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