March 13 is the Observation of National K9 Veterans Day

Military Working Dogs

March 13 has been designated as National K9 Veterans Day because it was on March 13, 1942, that the U.S. Army began training handlers and dogs for its K9 Corps, a first in the Armed Forces.

Today, military working dogs (MWD) are a dynamic part of the services, serving wherever American troops do. These highly skilled warriors are trained by the best to serve alongside them in missions on land, at sea, and in the air.

Belgian Malinois, which resemble the German Shepherd but are more compact, are the breed most often used as MWD because of their high energy, trainability, keen sense of smell, agility, speed, drive, loyalty, and fierceness when needed.

Military Working Dogs

When a potential MWD is about eight weeks old, it is placed with a foster family for socialization, where it will live for about six months. After that, the dogs enter training for basic obedience as well as exposure to environments they might encounter in a combat zone. At about one year of age, each dog is evaluated for its suitability to enter the Military Working Dog Training Program. The 120-day course is demanding, only about half of the dogs graduate and go on to serve as an MWD. When training is complete, the dog is assigned to a branch of service, where it will remain for its career. It is also assigned to a “dog-handler;” the bonds formed between handler and dog are deep and lasting.

The roles in which an MWD can serve are diverse. Because of that, dogs are exposed to the sounds and sights they would encounter at work. One example: a dog that will serve in the Coast Guard must be acclimated to the noise and wind of a helicopter along with the sensation of being hoisted high above the ground into the chopper and then lowered from it.

A military helicopter carries soldiers and military working dogs from the Special Forces.
A military helicopter carries soldiers and military working dogs from the Special Forces. 

Take a moment on March 13 to be awed and grateful for the difficult and dangerous tasks  military working dogs perform with their active-duty service members. They are, as the U.S. Dept. of Defense calls them, “best buddies” and “four-legged full-fledged fighters.”

If you find any of what you learn from the links in this story inspires you to support one of the programs that pairs military vets with a service dog, please consider the options you’ll find on this page of

2 thoughts on “March 13 is the Observation of National K9 Veterans Day”

  1. Philip and Kathleen Crowley

    Thank you for your post on MWD. my wife and I was honored to adopt a retiring MWD and we gave him the best retirement a puppy could ask for! Hugo definitely brought plenty of excitement to our home during his short two years with us. A true hero no doubt. Great web site, keep up the great work!

    1. Martha Murphy

      Thanks, Phil and Kathleen! I appreciate it. So glad you like the website. XOXO M.

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