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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. 

History of Fire Dogs

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. 

Why Dalmatians?

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.

What Do Fire Dogs Do?

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.

Learn More

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.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.