For some reason I've been hearing the phrase "dogs of war" a lot lately. Given the context, this has both confused me and inspired me to investigate. The phrase seems to be a rallying cry for humans looking for moral support as they prepare for a preemptive war. The very thought makes me laugh. (Well, not really laugh. You know how a dog's mouth can seem to curl up into sort of a smile sometimes? Well that's me right now.)
What I'm imagining is two dog armies going to war. First they'd run up to each other for some sniff butt, then they'd have a pissing contest, then the loser would roll over on his back to expose his genitals, and finally they'd all go off looking for some fresh cat poop for lunch. It's all very scatological. That doesn't quite seem to be what humans mean when they say "dogs of war." (Nor, for that matter, is it covered by the Geneva Convention.)
I did manage to track down the origin of the phrase. In its more complete form the phrase is "Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war" and was written by a guy named Bill Shakespeare. He is apparently a Hollywood screenwriter who cranks out starring vehicles for the likes of Mel Gibson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Keanu Reeves.
I guess it's pretty obvious that this Shakespeare hack doesn't know squat about dogs, or even animals in general. Sure dogs will fight to protect their young, but what animal wouldn't? If that justified the phrase, then he could just as easily invoke the "hamsters of war" or the "chickadees of war." Why just demonize dogs for being good parents?
The fact is, dogs only get war-like when they're subjected to intense behavior modification by humans. And even those dogs only attack in response to aggression. As far as I know, the only time a dog will actually initiate a preemptive attack along the lines of what humans are planning these days is when the dog has rabies. And you all know what we do to rabid dogs.