October 1st is National Fire Pup Day! In honor of this fun holiday, we’ve rounded up some information on fire dogs. Keep reading to learn more about the history of fire dogs and how they impact firehouses and their local communities today.
Fire dogs have been used for hundreds of years. Fire vehicles used to be fire wagons pulled by horses and these wagons often had carriage dogs — dogs that would run beside the wagon.
When firefighters began using motorized trucks instead of horse-drawn carriages, fire dogs began performing slightly different tasks.
Now, the dogs would often serve as a type of mascot instead, living in the firehouse as a companion for the firefighters. And although many breeds could be a fire dog, Dalmatians are the breed that’s been most commonly used as fire dogs throughout history.
Dalmatians are a loyal and highly intelligent dog breed.
This breed is commonly strong and can run for long periods of time. Additionally, according to anecdotal research, this breed is also comfortable around horses — which was a major asset in the days when fire carriages were pulled by horse. In centuries past, a big part of a fire dog’s job was keeping the horses calm while the firefighters worked to put out the fire.
The Fire Department of New York City started using Dalmatians as fire dogs in the 1870s. The breed became more popular and by 1910, the Westminster Dog Show had even created a specific category for Dalmatians who were fire dogs (this category lasted for 30 years).
Dalmatians are regularly portrayed as fire dogs in children’s books, movies, and TV shows (such as the book Dot the Fire Dog by Lisa Desimini). A quick Google search for the words “fire dog” produces a screen full of black-and-white colored dogs with red hats. Also, Dalmatians are often used as fire safety education dogs, going into schools and other environments to teach people about fire safety.
Dalmatians have continued to be a popular breed thanks to their historical record of riding alongside firefighters.
Today, the job description for fire dogs has changed. But firefighters still rely on their canine companions to perform essential tasks to help keep people and their community safe.
Here are a few examples of the type of work fire house dogs may perform now:
- Some dogs now work as arson dogs. They come along when the fire has been put out, sniffing out substances (like gasoline) that may have started the fire.
- Fire departments also use search and rescue dogs to look for missing people who might have been trapped under the rubble of a burning building.
- Crisis response canines work as therapy dogs to help first responders process any emotions caused by what they’ve seen on the job.
And finally, many fire departments use a fire dog as their mascot! These dogs are often used as fire safety dogs to help educate the public about fire safety.
If you’re interested in learning more about fire dogs and the helpful role they’ve played throughout history, reach out to your local fire department! Even if your local fire station doesn’t have a dog on staff, chances are they’ll be more than happy to speak with you about fire dogs, the history of firefighting, and fire safety.