How to Understand a Military Working Dog

K9 Military Working Dogs are retired United States military soldiers that deserve the best. If you can provide a safe and comfortable atmosphere and handle the unique needs of these special heroes you will never find a better dog. Canine military veteran dogs are transported all over the U.S. to make sure that they’re only placed in a home that's perfect for them.


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    Take the time to learn and understand every aspect of the K9 MWD's whole life, from puppy-hood and training, to his career in the military, to the end of his life.
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    Respect who he is. He's no ordinary dog. Imagine living day to day and sleeping through the night while depending on a dog for your life. Can you appreciate the high level of interspecies trust? Indeed, there can be no stronger bond than the one forged working together through a war, depending on one another for survival.
    • There is nothing that a soldier wouldn't do for his K9 battle buddy.
    • There are currently almost 3,000 dogs deployed with American armed forces around the world. A soldier and his dog face the enemy together. These canines are not often mentioned but they play an active and important role in our armed forces.
    • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces view military working dogs as soldiers. The dogs and soldiers on the ground are working partners. There is absolutely nothing a dog handler will not do to protect their dogs. They have a very special bond with each other; they travel together, sleep together, live together, and fight together.
    • These dogs serve with valor and have saved countless lives.
    • Their duties may include sentry duty, basic patrol, tracking, tactical explosive detection, security at entry control points, maneuver and mobility support operations, search and rescue, main supply route security, helping to guard and patrol key installations, asset and personnel protection, and scouting to silently locate booby traps and concealed enemies such as snipers.
    • The dog's keen senses of smell and hearing make them far more effective at detecting these dangers than humans.
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    Familiarize yourself with their military training.
    • Military working dogs strengthen the operational abilities that their human companions must carry out in the field. They are highly capable of working in any type of combat environment.
    • Military Working Dogs begin their training soon after birth, while they’re still with their mother.
    • Military K9s are highly trained soldiers who did not volunteer for their jobs, but they have done their duty with everything they have.
    • These are honorable soldiers, that no matter what the task, the long hours, extreme heat or cold, danger, and combat conditions, could be counted on to do their duty.
    • They have always, without exception, met the demands of their handlers and of their units.
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    Research Special Ops.
    • The K9 MWDs serve side by side with Special Ops and Navy SEAL Teams. They enthusiastically jump out of planes and parachute down into enemy territory along with their human counterparts.
    • They are an integral part of these highly skilled military teams and perform all the duties that go along with the job.
    • Like their human counterparts, the K9 SEALs are highly trained, highly skilled, highly motivated special ops experts, able to perform extraordinary military missions by Sea, Air and Land (thus the acronym). The dogs carry out a wide range of specialized duties for the military teams to which they are attached.
    • SEAL team dogs are the most elite of the of the elite military working dogs.
    • The Special Ops MWD wears a special state-of-the-art tactical vest outfitted with night-vision goggles (doggles) and durable cameras and microphones that allow the dog to relay audio and visual information back to their handlers.
    • Research Cairo, the Dog That Cornered Osama Bin Laden. The SEAL DevGru Team (also known as SEAL Team 6) consisted of 81 elite soldiers, including one dog. The name of only one soldier was released by President Obama, K9 MWD Cairo. He is the most elite of the elite; not your standard K9... nor is his gear...
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    Become familiar with the special needs of these dogs. A retired K9 veteran has special needs that should be accommodated.
    • This elite K9 military veteran has been shot at.
    • He has served courageously to find and alert troops to bombs and explosives.
    • He walks out in front of soldiers to detect, alert, and clear the way when crossing mine fields.
    • These noble dogs place themselves in harms way to protect their fellow human soldiers. They have been shot at, are sometimes badly wounded, and can lose life and limb in service of their country. Some make the ultimate sacrifice along with their heroic handlers.
    • These K9 soldiers help in the disposal of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and are victims of enemy ambush maneuvers, land mines, and sniper attacks. The strength and trust of the soldier to K9 partnership is the key factor to the success of their mission.
    • The K9 MWD veteran has been in battle; he has seen his human battle buddies wounded, blown up, and even killed in the line of duty.
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    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)
    • Like a lot of soldiers returning from war, the K9 soldier must be retrained and rehabilitated to get them out of the combat mode that they’ve been in most of their life. These dogs have been in the front of military operations. They have experienced highly dangerous combat operations and have served with valor during their deployments.
    • These hero dogs may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and become extremely anxious at the sound of slamming doors, fireworks, thunder storms, gunshots, and sudden loud noises. This is not something you can easily train out of him.
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    Do everything you can to accommodate the positive aspects of his established routine. Do whatever you can to help your soldier adapt and become comfortable with, and eventually confidant in situations that make him uneasy.
    • While you can lessen his fear and trepidation, this is not something that you can ever completely train out of him.
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    Understand the need for bonding. These dogs have always enjoyed a special bond with their human. He needs this bond. They travel together, live together, eat together, sleep together, and fight together. You need to forge this strong relationship of trust with your dog.
    • Travel Together. When you go out take your dog with you whenever you can.
    • Live Together. Let your dog live in the house with you and enjoy the full rights and privileges of any member of your family. Don’t keep him off furniture or beds. He has spent his entire career sleeping with his brave human soldiers. Don’t make him stay outside separated from his family. He has spent his life counting on the close interspecies trust necessary for his survival.
    • Eat Together. Let the dog eat when you eat. Your K9 soldier has spent his career in service eating with his human soldier; don’t force a change on him. Your K9 MWD is a special dog with special needs.
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    Consider adopting. All military working dogs of the U.S. Department of Defense have undergone rigorous training. After the dogs have completed their time in service, around the age of 10, they are rehabilitated and put up for adoption.
    • The United States Congress honors courageous dogs, bestows rank upon them, and promises to provide for a lifetime of medical care. Indeed, the K9 soldier always outranks his handler, ensuring that, without exception, his handler will "obey" the MWD when he alerts to a threat.
    • These elite dogs have earned their rights, respect, honor, an exceptionally honorable retirement, a loving home, and the very best lifelong care.
    • Each year around 300 of these highly skilled combat dogs are retired from military service and are put up for adoption.[1]
    • This can cost as much as $2,000 to pay for his expenses.
    • Although Congress has committed to providing lifetime medical care for these dogs, in practice, our government has turned a blind eye to these K9 soldiers, as they have with their human battle buddies. You will be responsible for his medical care and, depending on the dog, these expenses can be quite high; more so than your ordinary dog.
    • If you’d like to be considered for the honor of adopting a veteran MWD be prepared to undergo a rigorous screening process; these are no ordinary dogs.
    • Sometimes the dogs are retired with their handlers.
    • If their handler is KIA they may be placed with the soldier’s family.
    • Some go on to careers in civilian police agencies.
    • Still others are adopted out ordinary families.
    • There is usually a 9-15 month wait to adopt one of these heroic canines. If you are selected you should fully commit to meeting your dog’s needs and be acutely aware that his special needs are different from any other dog.
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    Find other ways to help. If after learning all about retired military K9s, you feel you are not equipped to provide a perfect home, one worthy of an elite hero with special needs, there are still ways you can help.
    • Consider joining the ranks of Save-A-Vet sponsors.
    • Help out with the planning and staffing of local and national events and fund-raisers.
    • You can help out with financial donations. Financial resources are always needed.
    • Spread the word with brochures and by sharing Save-A-Vet posts & videos on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media.
    • You can learn more about how to help a K9 veteran at Save-A-Vet


  • Familiarize yourself with the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and learn how best to cope with it to help your dog through his bad times.
  • Avoid slamming doors and sudden loud noises; this will startle your dog. If it happens, stop whatever you’re doing and comfort your hero until he feels better.
  • On Independence Day forego setting off fire-crackers and fireworks. Your veteran dog will get very anxious and apprehensive. He has fought to ensure your freedoms and his country’s independence and now he deserves to have your comfort. Close up your house if neighbors are setting off fireworks. Put the dog comfortably in your bed and hold him for as long as he needs it. Discuss your veteran dog’s special needs with your neighbors before-hand. They may very well respect the sacrifices your hero dog has made for his country, and may even feel good about helping the K9 veteran get through this difficult holiday with as much comfort as possible.
  • Thunderstorms will be difficult for your dog. You can’t avoid storms so be prepared to give comfort. Tuck him safely in bed, stay with him, and hold him close. All his life he has been close to his partner in times of peril. Thunder and lightning will feel perilous to your dog.
  • Shelter him from the sound of gun shots. In some areas people fire a gun at midnight on New Year’s Eve. There are noise makers; it can be a frightening time for your hero. Be ready to forego parties to stay home with your K9 veteran so you can comfort him. If you must go to a party, bring your hero dog with you. Explain the situation to your host; if they unwilling to accommodate your heroic K9 then stay home. There is no party that’s more important than the well-being of your K9 Military Working Dog.
  • On special holidays such as Veterans Day and Independence Day remember that these are days to celebrate all veterans, including your K9 warrior. If you’re barbecuing throw on a couple of extra steaks for your veteran dog. He’s earned it.
  • Your K9 veteran will never be a hunting dog. Do not expose him to gunfire. Ever.
  • Be absolutely certain that you're adopting this heroic veteran dog for the right reasons. Is your home the best home available in the whole country? Are you worthy of such a dog?


  • Be certain you consistently make all the accommodations your retired soldier needs. You need to trust each other completely. If you let him down and deny him comfort, he will have to deal with it on his own.
  • Your veteran dog has been trained to protect his family until his dying breath and he certainly will. For example, if you like to hit your wife this is not the dog for you. However, he’s the perfect dog for your wife.
  • The MWD veteran is an excellent watch dog. It might be a good idea to prominently display a special sign warning that there is a trained military dog living in the house. If your combat veteran hears the sudden loud crash of a window breaking and is confronted by an intruder, he will bite hard and hold… until YOU tell him it’s ok to let go. That could be a long time if you’re away.
  • If you turn your hero dog into a dejected dog with psychological problems he can become a dog that bites. He has been trained and taught special biting techniques. The average MWD's bite exerts between 400 and 700 pounds of pressure; if he bites, bones will be broken and he won’t let go until you tell him it’s ok to let go. He will never maul anyone, he bites and holds.
  • Although probably not practical, it would be nice to instruct your intruder on how to behave once the dog has him. Never run from the dog. Immediately submit to the dog, don't try to fight him off. He will hold the intruders broken limb and not let go until his human tells him to let go. Sit still and wait no matter how long it takes to be discovered by the dogs owner; yes it's scary and painful but this is the only way to avoid further injury. If you can think of a practical way to alert an intruder on how to behave once bitten by a veteran MWD, please consider writing a wikiHow article to share.
  • Although you may think your dog’s K9 military training will make him an excellent hunting dog, never take a veteran dog with you to hunt. Protect him from the sound of a gunshot. Your MWD veteran has been in battle; he has seen his human battle buddies wounded, blown up, and even killed in the line of duty. The dog should never be reminded of these terrible experiences. He's already suffered enough trauma; don’t make it worse.
  • These dogs are trained to bite hard and hold; they bite so hard that bones are broken. Don’t ever run from a military working dog, even if he’s retired.

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Categories: Working with Dogs