Military dogs have existed since ancient times and have a very long history. The earliest record of dogs fighting in battles dates back to 600 BC. They were used by the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Alans, Slavs, and Brits. From serving as messengers to scouts to sniffing out bombs, we can’t imagine the military without the help of dogs.
Although dogs fought alongside men during the US civil war and World War II, it wasn’t until 1942 that the US Army recognized these canines as military dogs and named them the K-9 Corps. Ever since, they have been loyal to the US Army. So, it’s worth honoring and recognizing these brave K-9 heroes that serve the country.
What Do Military Dogs Do?
The US Army uses Military Working Dogs (MWD) in the different branches of the Army for special purposes. Some are trained to track drugs and blood scents at crime scenes, while others are trained to detect explosives.
These dogs also participate in combat, patrol, and perform thorough searches. The roles of these furry heroes are indispensable. So, they deserve proper care and management.
5 Facts About Military Dogs
There are several facts about military dogs that make them unique. You’ll find some of them below.
1. Most MWDs Are Purchased from Germany
The US Army brings military dogs from the Netherlands and Germany. This is why the German Shepherd is one of the most common breeds used as military working dogs. German Shepherds are well-known for their intelligence, adaptability, endurance, speed, alertness, and strength.
However, the US has recently collaborated with the America Kernel Association to support the breeding program of these military dogs. So, this means that service dogs will become easier to provide to every branch of the army.
2. Every Military Pup Stays at a Foster Home For 5 Months
Every military puppy bred in the 341st Training Squadron is reared at the Military Working Dog Center. During this period, they undergo training that prepares them for future military service.
After eight weeks in this rearing ground, the Military Working Dog Center transfers them to foster homes specially dedicated to them in the San Antonio/Austin area. Here they’ll spend 5 months.
3. Only About 50% of the Dogs Make It Through the MWD Training
Not all dogs who are trained and adopted end up as military service canines. The US Army and Airforce only select capable dogs. So, only an average of 50% make it through the MWD program.
For instance, it’s unlikely for a dog with physical disabilities to pass this training and become a military dog.
4. All Military Working Dogs Are Non-Commissioned
As a custom, every military dog is non-commissioned. This means it’s a rank higher than its handler. This rule prevents handlers from maltreating these dogs in any way. So, there’s always a respect-loyalty relationship between a military working dog and its handler.
5. Sniffer Dogs Are Mostly Sporting Dog Breeds
The US Army uses sporting dog breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers to detect narcotics or explosives.
You can’t compare humans’ sense of smell to a dog’s strong sense of smell. Dogs have over a million sensory receptor sites in their nose. Also, the part of their brain that detects smell is about 40 times larger than a human’s. This is why military dogs can work well as sniffers.
What Dog Breeds Serve as Military Dogs?
Choosing a military dog based on its appearance or attractiveness is inappropriate. These are features to look out for in pets and not military dogs. So, military working dogs are selected based on strength, adaptability, intelligence, trainability, and aggressiveness.
There are only select breeds of dogs that the army or air force use as military dogs. Some of them are:
- German Shepherds
- Belgian Malinois
- Dutch shepherds
- Labrador retriever
- Yorkshire terrier
These dog breeds and others like them are great candidates for the military because they meet all the requirements for MWDs.
Five Famous Military Dogs in History
1. Sergeant Stubby – World War I
Sergeant Stubby served with the 102nd infantry, 26th Yankee division, and was the most decorated military dog in World War I. He was the only dog that earned that rank through combat. He also served in the army, alerting soldiers of incoming gas attacks and explosives. Sergeant Stubby also served as a searcher, helping to locate wounded soldiers in the field, thereby saving their lives.
Although not a German shepherd breed, this was one of the service dogs that fought in World War I (600BC). Sgt. Stubby was a stray pitbull terrier mix and died in 1926 after becoming the official mascot of Georgetown University.
2. Chips – World War II
Chips was a mixed breed of German Shepherd, Collie, and Husky. He served in General Patton’s Seventh Army in Germany, Sicily, France, North Africa, and France. During his service, he alerted soldiers of an enemy approaching, saving their lives. So, Chips received the Silver Star award for his bravery and the Purple Heart for his injuries.
3. Nemo – Vietnam War
Nemo was a full-breed German Shepherd that served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
During this war, Nemo did an honorable thing by staying guard and alerting the soldiers when the enemy soldiers were approaching their camp. It was this single act that saved the lives of those soldiers. As a result, the US Army gave him a permanent kennel to live in, and he was one of the dogs who returned to the US after the war.
4. Cairo – Operation Neptune Spear
Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was a member of the Navy Elite SEALS that stormed Osama bin Laden’s Compound. This event took place in May 2011, where Cairo served as a combat dog, securing the perimeters and attacking any escapee. Cairo was the only working military dog that participated in one of the most significant operations in modern history.
5. Lucca – Iraq
Lucca served in the United States Marine Corps for six years. She was a Belgian Malinois/German Shepherd mix that underwent training to detect explosives. So, she saved numerous lives by detecting explosives during her service and had about 400 missions. Lucca received The Dakin Medal by PDSA for being a brave and loyal military dog.
Can You Adopt a Former Military Service Dog?
After an MWD has retired, it needs a loving home and a family to belong to. So, these service canines can be adopted by Veterans or civilians. You can adopt these dogs, and rehome them as regular dogs. If you can’t adopt a military dog, sponsoring them through foster care in shelters is an option.
Learn More About Service Dogs
At Sierra Delta, our mission is to empower Veterans with access to approved dog training that provides them with purpose, innovation, and community through the love of dogs. We’re a non-profit and want to support you in building better and long-lasting relationships with your canine friend, whether it be a Life Buddy or a traditional service dog.
We’ve also created a Life Buddy app that can make caring for your dog much easier. But it’s only accessible to community members.
Are you a Veteran? Join the community to gain access to the Life Buddy app.