By Allie Waxman

War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend Producers on Our Unbreakable Bonds With Canines

Dog lovers who understand the meaning of “man’s best friend,” War Dog executive producers Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin discuss the multipurpose special operations canines and the soldiers they work alongside.


After working on their first documentary for HBO, Earth Made of Glass, executive producers Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin were eager to find a new story to sink their teeth into. When a mutual friend introduced them to U.S. Army Ranger John Dixon, they knew they found their next project. “The story of John and Mika really broke our hearts,” Carolin explained about Dixon’s quest to adopt his canine partner after returning home. “Both Chan and I — and War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend director Deborah Scranton — are all serious dog lovers. Our dogs go everywhere with us, so it was natural for us to make a movie in this space.”

Working on the story, Tatum and Carolin’s eyes were opened to the world of multipurpose special operations canines. “As a kid growing up in the South, you fantasize what it is to be a soldier, and what war would be like,” Tatum recalled. “I knew dogs had been used in the military, but not to this extreme. They’re like superhumans.” Carolin was “shocked” by what the dogs were capable of even in the toughest of situations, noting, “The dog is the soldier that goes in first.”

“They’re working dogs,” expanded Tatum. “When they turn on their superhuman abilities and they can see in the dark and run faster and jump higher.”

For Carolin, the bravery of the animals and their impressive skills “blew his mind”: “These animals, who are so full of love and compassion, are out there on the front lines doing these things on behalf of our country.”

“The thing about dogs is they’re not burdened by the mental constructs that get us into war and disagreements. So we project the best parts of ourselves on them,” he added. “They make us believe in themes of love and brotherhood and emotion that link us beyond species and gender and political belief. If we’ve done our jobs correctly, it means people will stop talking about them as dogs and start talking about them as soldiers.”

Through his own dog, Lulu, Tatum understands the inherent bond between man and dog. “It doesn’t matter what kind of mood I’m in, it doesn’t matter what’s going on, she’s just there,” he said about the deep connection they share. “I think there’s a sincerity in animals that as humans we almost don’t understand.”

He continued, “The bonds we can have, whether from human to human or human to animal, come from a really deep place. If we can have [that bond] with another species, we can have it with each other.”

War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend is available on HBO.