The Journey of Military Dogs

Dogs play an undeniably critical role in supporting U.S. military forces in today’s conflicts but they don’t just serve in one single capacity. On and off the battlefield, military working dogs are walking side by side with our troops both on the field and off. 

Over the years, dogs have served in many different roles but always remain an integral part of the battalion. Sentry dogs serve by giving warning when a stranger/enemy may be approaching. Scout/patrol dogs are trained to detect enemies from up to 1,000 feet away. Messenger dogs move between handlers with stealth and agility. During the Vietnam War, there was a special need for tunnel exploration, so the military trained and implemented Tunnel Dogs to explore the tunnels in Vietnam. 

Many of these incredible canines are even born for the job. As of 2013, nearly 85% of military working dogs are purchased from the Netherlands or Germany. These dogs come from a long line of military working dogs going back hundreds of years of being born and bred to serve.

German shepherds typically come to mind as the archetypal military dog, with their strong, muscular build. In reality, they represent just one of a few breeds. Labrador Retrievers and Belgian Malinois are also very popular amongst the U.S. military. In fact, Cairo, the dog who notably assisted the Navy SEALS in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, was a Belgian Malinois. 

Post-war life for military dogs has transformed immensely. Before 2000, it’s sad to say, military dogs were either euthanized or abandoned after they had served their role. Now, their future is much different. In 2000, Robby’s Law was passed, allowing families and handlers the opportunity to adopt military dogs after their service concludes, then to law enforcement, then their adoptive families. 

For some military dogs, their service doesn’t begin until service members are in the post-war stages of their military career. Service dogs are trained to help our military heroes who suffer from the invisible wounds of war: traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS). Their round-the-clock service can help wake their owners from a PTS-fueled dreams or provide a sense of security as they move through daily tasks, such as those made more complicated by the effects of a TBI. 

While the role of military dogs has changed and evolved over the years, their place as an essential component of the U.S. military has not. If anything, the importance of military dogs has only increased.

Posted on September 23 2019 in Blog

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