By Meaghan MacDougall
Military dogs have been used in all branches of the United States military for years now. Each dog is trained for specific jobs, and all are highly skilled warriors who serve with the best service men and women by their sides. They also serve another purpose: man’s best friend.

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The Story Behind Military Dogs

The United States has used dogs in the military dating back to World War I. During this time, dogs were mostly employed as mascots for the military. It wasn’t until World War II that dogs began getting trained to be employed for specific jobs. The most well-known dog from the military is Sergeant Stubby, who paved the way for military dog war heroes today. Stubby began his work as a mascot and eventually worked to locate wounded servicemen and alert the troops if the enemy was near. During the war, Stubby also captured a German soldier and held him until United States troops could capture him. About 20,000 military dogs were employed by the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Army during World War II. The dogs were trained for many different roles, including discreetly carrying messages, rescuing downed pilots, and guarding military posts and supplies. Today, there are about 2,500 dogs who work in the military protecting our service men and women and helping with the daily struggles of combat. In recent years, there have been several countries in which the U.S. has used military working dogs, Afghanistan included. Although dogs are workers within the military, they also serve as a best friend to their handlers, which is why you may see servicemen celebrating National Best Friends Day with their military dogs.

What Do Military Dogs Do?

There are several jobs in the military that dogs perform. Every military dog is healthy, strong, and has no physical limitations, allowing them to be able to perform all of these different types of roles:
  • Patrol Search Dogs
  • Casualty Dogs
  • Specialized Service Dogs (SSD)
  • Explosive-Detecting Dogs (EDD)
  • Sentry Dogs
  • CIA K9 Corps
  • Narcotic Detector Dogs (NDD)
  • Mine Detection Dogs (MDD)

When Is National Best Friends Day?

If you didn’t know, National Best Friends Day is celebrated every year to show appreciation to our very best friends who have been there for us through it all. It’s safe to say that dogs have been known as “man's best friend” for years. So, it’s no surprise that these K9s and their handlers are celebrating National Best Friends Day together. But, you may be wondering, when is Best Friends Day this year? Well, Best Friends Day 2022 took place on Wednesday, June 8. In 2023, it will be on a Thursday of the same date.

What Kind of Dogs Are Used in the Military?

There are very few types of dogs that are capable of working with the U.S. military. The breeds that are used most within the military are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Retrievers. These dogs have many characteristics that make them excellent workers. The characteristics that make these breeds great to work with are their loyalty, obedience, loving personalities, and their powerful bites. Retired military dogs are eligible for adoption, and what a better companion than a Veteran for a Veteran. K9s for Warriors is an organization that could help you find a friend you may be able to celebrate National Best Friends Day with in the future.

Military Dog Training

Dogs in the military are trained to be extremely obedient to their handlers, and they go through a training school. The training school uses many methods to create obedient and skilled K9s; they also have their own breeding program. To be a military dog trainer, you must set high standards for your dog and yourself. The military training program uses “clear signals training,” which is training that does not require the dog to always receive a physical award. The training process is based on giving positive rewards and feedback to the dog, verbal or physical. Here are some training techniques that the military uses seriously when training dogs.
  • Repetition
  • Socialization
  • Praise
  • Patience
  • Generalized commands
  • Teaching obedience commands
  • Practicing obedience courses
  • Practicing with distractions
Civilians and Veterans can get in on the amazing training methods utilized for these dogs. To learn some of their training tips, you can look through and study the U.S. military dog training handbook. These dogs are not only important for the specific jobs that they are trained for; they are also important companions to their holders. Military dogs and their handlers have a relationship just like a civilian and their pet. On National Best Friends Day and every day, remember to appreciate your furry friends.

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