One of the US armed forces members often overlooked are the loyal and brave Military Working Dogs.
Military Working Dogs (MWDs) have officially been a part of the United States military since World War I, protecting and serving their country faithfully alongside their human partners.
In honor of the upcoming K9 Veterans Day (March 13), this post is about some lesser known facts about military working canines you may not know.
As a US military combat veteran, I saw my fair share of MWDs on the armed forces bases I was stationed at and while I was deployed overseas to Afghanistan.
This post is about lesser known fun facts about military working dogs.
Facts About Military Working Dogs
Fact #1: Boot Camp Isn’t Just For Humans.
All dogs go through their version of bootcamp when entering as a candidate to become a US military working dog.
Military Working Dog Training involves intensive skills and obedience training, while demonstrating teamwork with their assigned K9 Handler.
A little under 50% of the dogs in the training program successfully pass to officially earn Active Military Working Dog status.
Fact #2: Military K9 Handlers Are Lower Ranking Than Their K9 Partner.
It is customary for military working dogs to ranked higher than their handlers.
This rank structure is in place to prevent the K9 Handlers (the humans) from harming or mistreating their canine partners.
These handlers can face disciplinary and legal actions if found abusing their dogs in any way.
The rank hierarchy is also established to help reinforce a respectful relationship between the partners.
Fact #3: Medical Personnel Are Training to Render Aid to Injured Military Dogs.
US armed forces medical personnel deployed in combat zones are receiving special training and implementing proper protocols to render medical help to treat injured Military Working Dog.
Any MWD injured in the line of duty will receive immediate medical attention and treatment just as any injured human service member.
Fact #4: Combat Related PTSD Can Affect MWDs Too.
It’s a sad fact, but about 10% of military working dogs who have served in combat are found to suffer from combat related post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Military working dogs with PTSD experience similar symptoms as human soldiers, such as flashbacks, hypervigilance, behavioral issues, and more.
It has been found that military working dogs and veterans suffering from PTSD are able to help and support one another due to strongly relating and understanding what the other is feeling and going through.
Fact #5 Military Working Dogs Can Be Adopted.
In 2000, US President Bill Clinton signed and officially passed “Robby’s Law”, making all military working dogs eligible for adoption after their term of service is completed.
In 2015, a new law was passed in which military working dogs were no longer to be classified as “equipment”.
Priority for adoption is first given to the K9 Handler and their family, followed by law enforcement members, then civilians.
Programs lead by US military branches or non-profit organizations like The US Air Force 37th Training Wing’s DoD Military Working Dog Adoption Program, Warrior Dog Foundation, Mission K9 Rescue, and Patriot K9 Rescue, all provide opportunities to adopt military working dogs, to include contract working dogs and retired law enforcement K9s.
Individuals and/or their families will go through a detailed adoption process and screening in order to show proof they are capable of caring and providing a good home to these special dogs.
BONUS FACT: Military Working Dogs Have Memorial Sites You Can Visit.
There are now several memorial sites you can visit honoring military working dogs past, present, and future.
Commemorative statues like The United States War Dogs Memorial statue located in Holmdel, New Jersey, Military Working Dog Teams National Monument in San Antonio, Texas, and the United States Navy Memorial “Service and Sacrifice” in Washington D.C. are just a few of the memorials dedicated to recognizing and honoring the dedication and faithful service of the canines of the US armed forces.