When we call dogs ‘man’s best friend’, we’re typically referring to their value as companions and protectors - but canines have a long history of helping people with affairs far more solemn that playing fetch. For centuries, dogs have played a pivotal role in aiding the disabled, in hunting, for search and rescue operations, and for their service in police and military applications. After a long hiatus, U.S. bomb-sniffing dogs were re-introduced to the battlefield in 2007. There are now some six-hundred military dogs deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sharon Weinberger is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson international center for scholars in Washington DC, and a columnist for BBC future – where we found her latest article Upgrading the Dogs of War.