Hoosick Township Historical Society

A Local War Dog Connection

John “Jack” Behan lived on 181 Church Street with his mother, Mrs. Johanna Behan before WWII. His love of dogs materialized into his life profession.

At the age of 11, he worked all summer mowing lawns and delivering papers to save $50 so he could purchase his own dog. He sent for a collie puppy he named “Tyke”. He trained the dog and they became inseparable. Jack is quoted: “He went on dates with me, sitting in the car with us and waiting outside the high school gym while we danced.”

During WWII, he enlisted in the Coast Guard where he achieved a chief petty officer rating. He also was attached to the Army K-9 Corp training war dogs. Over a three year period, he compiled the material for an illustrated book, called “Dogs of War” (Scribners). After the War he helped to promote many exhibitions on training war dogs throughout the country. The largest was staged at Madison Square Garden in February 1944 and 1945. He was probably the first person to exhibit a trained dog on a television show. His published book prompted Mary Margaret McBride to interview him on her national radio show. Jack received such a large response that he decided, in 1946, to open a dog boarding school and dog store in New York City.

His business expanded rapidly, and he and his wife decided to buy a 14 acre estate in West Redding, Conn., forty miles from New York City. They called it “Canine College” with the purpose of training dogs for all types of endeavors. The dogs attended classes and every dog that met the standards graduated. His brother William “Spike” Behan and his wife, the former Veronica Stuka, assisted him.

The enrollment averaged usually 40 to 50 dogs with the facility able to train 100 dogs. The school soon included the dogs of stars like Nanette Fabray, Ed Sullivan, John D. Rochefeller, Irving Berlin and many other celebrities. The school trained dogs for Macy’s and Jordan Marsh in Boston. They used Doberman pinschers for this because of their short hair. They were taught to patrol the stores after hours. They worked with police departments using German shepherds.

In a featured article in the New York World-Telegram (May 26, 1962), the writer said, “Mr. Behan is one of the most unusual men I’ve ever interviewed. His whole mature life has been spent with dogs, but his philosophy is as valid for humans as for animals”.

Compiled for HoosickHistory - Phil Leonard