Summon Zombie Dogs is a Support Witch Doctor skill unlocked at level 1. It summons several zombie dogs, better known as "mongrels" which tank for the Witch Doctor.
This is the basic minion skill of the Witch Doctor.
Mongrels can also be detonated by the Sacrifice skill, dealing substantial damage to anything in the vicinity. This is their most effective way of directly damaging monsters.
More points in the skill allow for more, higher level mongrels. They have good foot speed and are fearless, if not very damaging with their hand to hand combat. Sacrifice deals far more damage than the mongrels ever will.
The following is a very quick list. See the Summon Zombie Dogs rune effects page for a more thorough summary of rune effects, or any of the individual rune pages for numbers, screenshots, blue quotes, and much more.
|| Leeching Beasts
Your zombie dogs gain 65% of damage dealt as Life, half of which heals you.
|| Burning Dogs
Light your dogs on fire allowing them to burn nearby enemies for 70% of your weapon damage per second as Fire.
|| Final Gift
Upon death, your zombie dogs have a 85% chance of leaving behind a health globe.
|| Life Link
70% of damage taken is absorbed by your zombie dogs.
|| Rabid Dogs
Your summoned zombie dogs gain an infectious bite that deals 35% of your weapon damage per second as Poison for 3 seconds.
Note: Information is based on a level 60 character and rank 7 runestones.
Summon Zombie Dogs is the first summoning skill most Witch Doctors will ever use, and forms the backbone of early Witch Doctor strategy. The dogs are not very strong individually, either in giving or taking damage, but they are effective meat shields for the Witch Doctor to use his attack spells from the back row.
At higher levels Mongrels can deal decent damage, and in a swarm they may be useful against individual enemies, especially when their damage is boosted by a runestone.
Enhancing the Dogs
Mongrel enhanced with Locusts.
Earlier in Diablo III's development, the Witch Doctor's fire and Locust spells could jump to the Mongrels, granting them fire or locust damage on top of their own (weak) attacks. This feature was removed in 2009, and later replaced by various runestone effects.
Summon Zombie Dogs debuted with Diablo III in the WWI 2008 gameplay video, where the skill was in the Voodoo Skill Tree at Tier I. Summon Zombie Dog was called Summon Mongrel (as Mongrel was the original name of the Zombie dog), and mongrels could be enchanted with Locust Swarm or Skull of Flame, among other spells.
For BlizzCon 2009, the skill was moved to the Zombie Skill Tree. By then, skill enchantments had been removed, replaced by skill rune enhancements. For a brief period of time, this skill apparently cost health instead of mana.
At BlizzCon 2010, they evinced more damage and improved AI, preferring proximity to the Witch Doctor over dealing with stragglers. Flux described it like this:
I saw them finish off the last zombie on screen a number of times, and I don’t recall ever having to summon new ones simply because the old ones had gotten stuck or lost around some corner of the dungeon. That speaks to their pathfinding as well, since the dungeons in this year’s Blizzcon PvM demo were made largely from narrow corridors and were quite windy and full of sharp corners and obstacles.
Skill tiers were removed for the July 2011 Press Event, and Summon Zombie Dogs became a level 1 skill.
See the Witch Doctor skill archive for more details on previous versions of Summon Zombie Dogs (or Summon Mongrel) and other Witch Doctor skills.
In Other Games
Summon Zombie Dogs is the spiritual successor to Diablo II's Necromancer skill Raise Skeleton, which is also a low-level tanking minion summoning skill.
Summon Zombie Dogs can be seen in action on video here:
You can find pictures in the Diablo III screenshot and picture gallery: