The four-legged fighters of the army: military working dogs

It goes without saying that dogs are man’s best friend. They always want to be with us and be a part of everything we do: lounging on the couch, running, hiking, eating (most of the time). In fact, they’ve been with us for more than 10,000 years, walking alongside us in hunting, herding, pulling sleds, acting as emotional support, guardians, even nannies. They are intelligent and energetic creatures (most of them, at least), not to mention clumsy and cuddly. These reasons, and more, make it the perfect companion in the military. Let’s take a look at the common (and less common) military working dog breeds that accompany our troops in the field.

Become an official military working dog

Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the process by which a dog becomes a certified military dog. Have you ever wondered if your pup could become a K9?


It starts with acquiring puppies, usually from the DoD’s military working dog breeding program. There are puppy development specialists who care for these puppies until they are 8 to 10 weeks old.

To favor

This allows dogs to live a normal puppy life while learning to socialize.

Selection and training

Through puppy training, dogs are examined to see if they have the necessary attributes for a Military Working Dog (MWD). Unqualified dogs can still be used by other agencies or adopted.

Training camp for dogs

Dogs generally must be trained and evaluated for four to seven months to be MWD certified. If successful, they will be assigned their respective US military bases.

Manager Assignment

The MWD will then be paired with their first MWD handler for their obedience, patrol and detection training.

Dog team certification

To be an official MWD, dogs must locate all scents they are trained to detect. If terminated, they will then become official military working dogs.

Common and (uncommon) breeds

Labrador Retrievers

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Reese and his military working dog Grek wait in a safe house before leading an assault on insurgents in Buhriz, Iraq April 10, 2007. U.S. Army soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and Iraqi Army soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division go door to door searching for caches of weapons and enemy fighters after more than 1,000 inhabitants of this suburb of Baqubah have been displaced by al-Qaeda insurgents. (USAir Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall)

Labrador Retrievers are great at detecting explosives, finding wounded allied soldiers, and even dealing with stress with their excellent sense of smell. Highly trainable, intelligent and friendly – what more could you ask for?


The Military Police Corps trains a Boxer dog to attack, August 15, 1942.

Widely used during the World Wars as pack and messenger dogs, they are loyal and fearless companions. Vittles, a boxer, even flew with parachutes alongside pilots during the Berlin Airlift to help deliver food to West Berlin. How cool is that?

Yorkshire terrier

Smoky (c. 1943 – 21 February 1957), Yorkshire Terrier and famous war dog who served in World War II. Photograph from Yank magazine.

Definitely the cutest on the list; Yorkshire Terriers are more than just purse dogs. They were originally bred for mouse extermination in England, but during World War II a Yorkie named Smoky pulled critical wires through narrow pipes, saving soldiers from a risky digging task of 3 days.

German shepherd

A military working dog wears Doggles to protect his eyes as a Chinook helicopter takes off, kicking up dust and debris, during an air assault operation by US soldiers assigned to Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Parwan province, Afghanistan, May 11, 2010. Sgt. Jason Brace/Wikimedia Commons

German Shepherds are probably the most well-known military working dog breed. They were developed specifically as military working dogs. They are loyal, intelligent and vigorous. Currently, there are about 600 dog teams made up of German Shepherds.

belgian malinois

WORKING DOG – U.S. Air Force military working dog Jackson sits on a U.S. Army Bradley M2A3 fighting vehicle before departing on a mission in Kahn Bani Sahd, Iraq February 13, 2007. His handler is Tech. sergeant. Harvey Holt of the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. (US Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Stacy L. Pearsall/Wikimedia Commons)

Due to their intense and aggressive demeanor, Belgian Malinois or Mal are perfect military companions. Besides their intelligence and athleticism, they are a bit smaller and lighter than the German Shepherd. Therefore, they can parachute more easily. Cairo, an Evil, was part of the SEAL team that found Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Their high speed and laser-focused focus on hitting the target of their attack earned the Evils the affectionate nickname “The Hair Missile”. .”

Some other MWD breeds have not been mentioned above, but in summary, dogs are undoubtedly an essential part of our lives, whether in our homes or in the war zone.

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Bette C. Alvarado