He enrolled in the 129th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 3 January 1916 at Dundas, Canada. Though he claimed no prior military experience, he belonged to the 77th Regiment of militia. He signed his enrollment form "R. Dodds, Lieutenant"
On 27 March 1917, Dodds was appointed a Flying Officer.
Dodds was posted to 48 Squadron as a Bristol F.2 Fighter pilot on 12 July 1917.
Nine days later, Dodds shared in a victory with fellow aces Brian Edmund Baker and Robert Coath. Dodds scored his fifth victory on 21 October 1917 and closed out the year as an ace.
A double victory on 9 January 1918, followed by three wins on 8 March, brought his total to ten. On 10 February 1918, after his sixth and seventh wins, Lieutenant Dodds was appointed Flight Commander and temporary captain.
His valor was not confined to air-to-air combat.
On 19 March 1918, he led a bombing attack through heavy ground fire to bomb a German hangar from low level He then circled the German airfield in his riddled plane as his squadron also bombed the enemy. Lieutenant (Temporary/Captain) Robert Dodds, 1st Central Ontario Regiment and Royal Flying Corps
"..He has destroyed or driven down eleven enemy machines.
On one occasion while on a one-machine patrol he attacked three enemy scouts, but owing to his gun jamming he was forced to withdraw from the attack.
Though under heavy fire from the pursuing enemy he succeeded in remedying the defect, and then turned and attacked the enemy again. He destroyed one of them and drove down another out of control.
Later, he led a bombing raid on an enemy aerodrome, and under intense machine gun fire from the ground dived to within 100 feet of the hangars before releasing his bombs. Though his machine was damaged, he remained at a height of 200 feet until the rest of his formation had dropped their bombs.
His magnificent example of pluck and determination was of the greatest value to the squadron."
On 4 May 1919, Dodds was seconded from 1st Central Ontario Regiment to the Royal Air Force as an acting captain.
Simultaneously, he relinquished his Royal Air Force commission and went on the unemployed list. Dodds then returned to Canada and helped found the Hamilton Ontario Aeronautical Club. He managed International Airways and supervised airmail operations in eastern Canada.
Dodds joined the Canadian Civil Aeronautics Division in 1930.
He would become heavily involved in development of Canada"s airways system, especially as it affected Transport-Canada Air Lincolnshire. There was a Transport-Canada Airlines landing crash of a Lockheed Electra 14 (Registration CF-TCP) at Armstrong, Thunder Bay District, Ontario on 6 February 1941, killing 12.
Chief Airline Inspector Dodds as chairman of the Federal Board of Inquiry arranged for removal of the crash debris to Winnipeg to aid in the accident investigation. This crash investigation was in addition to his ongoing administrative duties during I, providing airfields for use under the Empire Air Training Plan.
In 1950, he was promoted to Controller of Civil Aviation, putting him effectively in charge of Canada"s civil aviation infrastructure.
On 11 August 1957, a District of Columbia-4 crash found Dodds as Director of the Civil Aviation Branch of Canada"s Department of Transport. He retired in 1958. He died on 8 October 1980.