Military Working Dogs: A Soldier’s Best Friend


Sometimes we forget what’s really important, and that includes those fighting for our nation with two legs and four. We should never forget – ever – particularly on Veteran’s Day.

“No one knows how many lives have been saved (by military working dogs) but many thousands, hundreds of thousands since World War II,” says MSgt. John Burnam, author of A Soldier’s Best Friend. Military working dogs deployed across the U.S. and overseas search for explosives and land mines, search for bad guys, and serve as guard dogs. They also protect U.S. military equipment from theft.

Ron Aiello, of the of the non-profit U.S. War Dog Association  estimates that American military working dogs conservatively saved over 10,000 lives in Vietnam, and that number has likely at least tripled in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Canine service to our country began during World War I. Although there was no official military working dog program back then, dogs were used by the military. The most famous military working dog was a Bull Terrier named Stubby, who repeatedly returned to the front, even after suffering from exposure to gas and wounds from shrapnel. A 2018  feature film was even made about the heroic dog, who was honored by two Presidents.

Aiello was himself in Vietnam when his partner, a German Shepherd named Stormy, alerted him to impending danger.

Aiello heeded the warning and moments later, a sniper opened fire, just missing him. “My dog saved my life more than once, and most handlers say the same thing,” Aiello says.

Burnam also served in Vietnam. His military working dog was a German Shepherd named Clipper. “One time, we were leading a patrol in an area we had previous combat experience in,” he says. “This was an open space with rows of rubber trees. We spread out in a wide formation. Then all the sudden a guy to my right gets hit and badly hurt. There were explosives with trip wires booby-trapped all around. We had nowhere to go but forward; it was our only choice. Clipper guided us through this area and past at least five booby traps. He saved my life and the lives of others on that day.”

Adopt a Retired Military Working Dog

Retired military working dogs can be adopted. And what a great way to demonstrate your patriotism as well as to save these dogs, all of them have served with honor.

A 2000 bill signed by President Bill Clinton requires all military working dogs suitable for adoption to be available for placement after their retirement. Because working military dogs are highly trained, fiercely loyal, and may have unique medical issues, all retired dogs available for adoption go to the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Adoption Program. Typically, over 300 dogs are adopted through the program each year.

Another bill, this one signed in 2015 by President Barack Obama, guarantees the safe return of all retired military dogs to the United States after serving abroad. In the past, the handlers often had to come up with the funds to transport the dogs home. Note the government doesn’t always support the safe return and reunification with dog handlers as they should. Organizations like the U.S. War Dog Association help to pay those costs.

According to the U.S, military, around 90 percent of the military working dogs are now adopted to their handlers following their combined service to the country. However, for various reasons, some are not.

The adoptions must happen from the Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, TX.. There are also organizations like Mission K9 Rescue, which help facilitate adoptions of contract military working dogs, which are often harder to reunite with their handlers.

More FAQ’s involving adoption of a retired military working dog from the U.S. War Dog Association.

And this is what that bond with military dogs is all about. Warning watching the video will warm your heart, but tissue may be required