National Fire Pup Day is a special day for Dalmatians and other dog breeds used in firefighting and provides firefighters with some much-needed companionship while at the fire station.
National Fire Pup Day was established to celebrate these amazing animals who work hard to keep us safe. These canines were often called carriage dogs in the past because they ran alongside the wagon and horses to protect them. Even today, you will see a fire dog - it doesn't matter what breed - sitting with their masters' on the firetruck equipment.
National Fire Pup Day is celebrated annually on October 1st because it commemorates when Dalmatians became a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1894.
History of the Fire Pup
Before Dalmatians were fire pups, they were carriage dogs. A few hundred years ago, dogs were trained to trot alongside horse-drawn wagons and protect their humans (and horses) from harm.
Although a “carriage dog” is not a specific breed, certain breeds were more suited to the lifestyle. A carriage dog needed a few key features:
- Long legs and a sturdy body
- Energy and motivation
- Endurance to keep up on a long journey
- Good temperament and high level of obedience
Dalmatians were the perfect carriage dogs because they have the “strength, vitality, fortitude, and size to keep going gaily till the journey’s end,” according to the AKC. Dalmatians also happened to have a reputation for getting along with horses, and it wasn’t long before they became the favored carriage dog among wealthy citizens.
When horse-drawn fire carriages hit the scene in the late 1700s, carriage dogs became fire pups. Dalmatians were ideally suited for the job, not only because of their carriage-trailing abilities but their grace under fire. Dalmatians were known to have a calming effect on horses. While firefighters battled the fire, the fire dog could stay with the horses to ease their stress. The fire dog would typically bunk in the stable alongside their gelding companions when they got back at the station.
Good with horses, but no match for horsepower
Once motorized vehicles came on the scene, carriage dogs were "out of work." But just because the horses were gone didn’t mean the dalmatian was going anywhere. The public got used to seeing Dalmatians alongside firefighters. So at that point, fire dogs needed a new job description.
Fire stations across America kept Dalmatians on-site as firehouse residents and mascots. The tasks of a modern firehouse dog can include:
- Serving as companions for firefighters
- Guarding belongings in the firehouse (and hunting vermin, too!)
- Riding along to fires and standing guard over the truck
- Acting as the fire company mascot
During the 20th century, Dalmatians and other fire pups also made a notable move into education, helping firefighters demonstrate fire safety and emergency preparedness for school and community groups.
Not only are they companions, guard dogs, and mascots, but some also help sniff out arson. Some fire pups take on important fire safety jobs outside the firehouse, such as accelerant-sniffing “arson dogs.” According to the State Farm Arson Dog Program, arson dogs are specially trained to “sniff out minute traces of accelerants (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) that may have been used to start a fire.” These intelligent super-sniffers work alongside firefighters or law enforcement officers. They help investigate the fire scene after the blaze has been extinguished to see if there was an accelerant used.
There are many misconceptions about fire dogs. Some people think only dalmatians can be fire dogs, but that’s just not true! These days, any size, shape, or breed of dog can play the role of your local firefighter’s best friend. Fire pups have come a long way from running alongside horse-drawn wagons, but they remain as crucial to firefighters now as ever before. The lifesaving work that these four-legged friends do is one example of how technology has advanced in this field over time, and their loyalty reminds us all what it means to be human’s best friend.
Does your fire station have a fire pup? If you live near a fire station, why don't you stop by? They don't mind having visitors! You'll also meet some great first responders and their four-legged companions. Be sure to share your pictures with the fire pup with us here @VitalPetLife. #firepup