Military Lifestyle

Military Working Dog: 9 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know


With National Love Your Pet Day around the corner, we thought we’d share our love and appreciation for a special group of pets, the military working dog (MWD). The four-legged troops bring all the strength, resilience and bravery that’s present in their human counterparts but don’t always get the same recognition. Here are 10 facts about the military pooches including details if you want to help our brave K9’s and obviously, some cute pictures.

1. Military Working Dog History

Dogs have been involved in armed forces almost as long as people have been. The Romans, Greeks and Egyptians are all recorded to have used the four-legged friends in battle. It is only since World War II that the U.S. military has formally recorded dogs as part of the force but they’ve been informally used in the U.S. since the Revolutionary War.

2. Military Working Dog Breeds

The most common military dog breed in the U.S. is the German Shepherd, but smaller dogs are also becoming more popular including Belgian Malinois’s and Dutch Shepherds. Dogs varying from Jack Russell Terriers to Labradors are also found but are much rarer.

3. Famous K9’s

Like all aspects of our military, there are certain individuals who achieve fame through their heroic and intelligent service. War dogs are no different. One of the most famous military working dogs is Layka, a German Shepherd who protected her handler from an explosion and lost a leg but survived.

Layka, the hero dog
Layka on the front of National Geographic

Another well-known military dog was Sergeant Stubby, a Boston Bull Terrier who served in World War I. Sgt. Stubby single-handedly captured a German soldier and was the only dog to be promoted to Sergeant.

Sgt Stubby, military working dog
Sergeant Stubby, the most decorated military dog of World War I

4. Military Dog Brought Home

Since Robby’s law passed in 2000, all military dogs are eligible for adoption after their term of service. It was 2016 before new laws mandated that the military pay for the returning home of all military dogs after service meaning no dog gets left behind.

5. Military Dog Work

Military dogs are found in each branch of the armed forces, including the Marines, Army, Airforce, Coast Guard and Navy. They perform a variety of tasks from drug and explosive detection to scouting and patrolling with their excellent sense of smell. Depending on which arm of the military they serve, dogs can also swim long distances and jump out of airplanes.

6. Training to be a Military Working Dog

The Military Working Dog Program is based in Lackland Air Base in Texas with the 341st Training Battalion where these brave pups undergo intense training in obedience and military skills as well as teamwork with their handlers. A little under 50% make the grade to become active service members. Bootcamp isn’t just for humans!

7. Number of Military Working Dogs

There are over 2,700 active military service dogs and it is estimated that each dog saves 150-200 human lives over the course of their service. Now those are some good boys!

8. Military Working Dog Handler

Every MWD has its own handler who also must undergo special training for the role as well as their standard military training. This includes being able to lift their dogs and their gear, manage a dog’s stress and needs as well as training with their dogs in scouting, searching and patrolling. Most importantly, a MWD handler must build a strong bond with their dog.

9. Adopting a Military Working Dog

Just like our servicemen and women, the military working dog needs love and support too. Retired military dogs or those who weren’t suitable for a life in the armed forces make great pets and are available for adoption. Thankfully, they are very popular with over 90% being adopted by their former handlers. There is a waitlist but those interested can check out the US War Dog’s Association.

If you would like to spread the love further on #NationalLoveYourPetDay, there are many different organizations who would love your support. Gizmo’s Gift was set up to help military working dogs transition into civilian life and the US War Dog’s Association also send out supplies to K9 divisions. For a list of charities and ways to help, Operation We Are Here has a more comprehensive list.

10. A different kind of Military Working Dog

The nine facts above give you more insight into the dogs that have served their country. Now, our last fact is about the dogs that choose to serve our Veterans.

K9s For Warriors was founded to provide post-9/11 military veterans with a service dog to help those suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disability, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma during their time in service.

The company rescues dogs across the country and then trains them to be the highest quality service dog. The dogs rescued by K9s For Warriors have been given a second chance at life and the opportunity to serve those who have served.

The service provided by K9s For Warriors is 100% free for veterans. You can learn more about the company and the lives impacted by their service in Scott Smith’s article K9s For Warriors – Because Together We Stand.

And as promised, here’s a small collection of pictures of tail-wagging warriors. All the bravery, strength and dedication along with being adorable!


We’d love to see some of your active and retired military pets so tag us in your posts or comment below telling us about your brave pooches!



  1. Project K-9 provides medical help, special food & After Duty services for retired K-9’s. They are a unique orginaziton & are a non-profit that is definitely worth donating to. Every dollar donated goes directly to helping the dogs.

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