What is the Highest Military Rank Achieved by a Dog?


Canines have been utilized in times of war for centuries.  Before the military started actual programs for these military dogs, they were ideal for breaking up enemy formations- running fearlessly into the sea of men- and taking them down one by one. When you think of a military dog, what breed comes to mind?  German Shepherd? Malinois? A labrador, perhaps?

How about a small terrier? While it may seem surprising, a small terrier mix known as Stubby, is described to be one of the most decorated war dogs in the history of the US military! The highest military rank ever achieved by a dog is in fact Sergeant, which is what Stubby was promoted to in combat for his great courage on the battlefield.

Sgt Stubby – The War Dog

The story of Stubby the war dog begins in the year of 1917, in Connecticut during WW1.  Little Stubby was a stray, who used to hang around the infantrymen who trained nearby his dwelling place.  Stubby’s temperament and personality enchanted all of the men, but one soldier in particular by the name of Robert Conroy declared Stubby as his own. When the time came to ship out for France, his new friend was not left behind.

While his trip overseas as a stowaway was not necessarily ideal,  Sgt. Stubby proved himself extremely useful on the battlefield. He was excellent in locating the wounded soldiers and getting them help.  It’s also been said that he is responsible for saving the lives of an entire company! By sensing out upcoming danger, he warned them to put on gas masks and ultimately was awarded the credit for saving everyone’s life. He was officially given the promotion to Sergeant by the infantry commander himself after the incredible capture of a German spy.

Sergeant Stubby Returns Home

Unfortunately this special canine did not leave the battlefield completely unscathed.  He endured an injury from a surprise grenade attack, and proceeded to bravely undergo surgery.  His presence during recovery is said to have thoroughly boosted the morale of his fellow wounded soldiers. This furry little fighter’s multiple acts of great heroism inspired the recent 2018 children’s movie: Sgt Stubby: An American Hero.

After living through a total of 17 battles, Sgt. Stubby came home to finish out his life as a normal dog. He was recognized for his acts of heroism in several ways. Stubby was awarded several medals of honor, and even invited visit the White House!  When Conroy studied law at Georgetown University, Sergeant Stubby became the official mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas- shortly before his death in 1926. To this day he holds his own display at the National Museum of American History, and can be visited by anyone.

Now you might be wondering how other war dogs end up earning their rank.  It is actually customary that all military working canines receive the unofficial title of NCO.  This practice is to ensure due regard for these special dogs, as well as aid in the prevention of any possible abuse.  Military canines are to be observed as partners, rather than subservients. While the rank is obviously not recognized by the military on paper, it’s not unheard of for these well deserving dogs to be awarded with medals, recognition, and sometimes even funeral ceremonies (as we now know, thanks to Stubby the war dog).  

Oftentimes when speaking of our American soldiers, we’re referring to all the brave men and women who have committed to protecting our great nation.  Let us never forget the protection provided to us by the courageous souls that come inside of a much furrier package, bearing four paws, and a tail.

Sources used in gathering research:

https://amhistory.si.edu/militaryhistory/collection/object.asp?ID=15

https://www.army.mil/article/56965/military_working_dogs_guardians_of_the_night

https://www.army.mil/article/56965/military_working_dogs_guardians_of_the_night

https://www.military.com/undertheradar/2017/03/brief-history-dogs-warfare