6 Military Dog Breeds: K9 Veterans Day

military dog breeds sitting pretty


Military dogs are an integral part of armed forces around the world. These intelligent, brave, and loyal canines are trained to perform various tasks, such as detecting explosives, tracking down enemies, and aiding in search and rescue missions.

Dogs have been employed within the military ranks since the Roman Legions, if not earlier. They were used on battlefields to carry messages, to detect enemy, and as weapons.

While many dog breeds are capable of serving in the military, some breeds are preferred due to their innate abilities and temperament. In this blog post, we will discuss six military dog breeds that you need to know about.

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is one of the most popular military dog breeds in the world, and for a good reason. With their intelligence, courage, and loyalty, they make excellent military dogs. Their keen sense of smell, speed, and agility make them ideal for tracking and detecting explosives and enemy combatants. German Shepherds are also known for their versatility, which allows them to serve in various roles, such as search and rescue, patrol, and guard duty.

German Shepherds were the military working dog standard for decades, but well-bred Shepherds have a shorter service life than other working military dog breeds because Shepherds are known to get hip dysplasia and that decreases their usability in rigorous military activities.

Nonetheless, German Shepherds have served gallantly alongside of their military handlers for hundreds of years. One of the more famous U.S. military working dogs, Nemo, was a sentry dog in Vietnam who in 1966 detected an inbound enemy element that was going to attack an air base. Nemo alerted and a firefight ensued.

Nemo was shot in the face and he lost an eye from the gunfight. That night the security forces at the airbase engaged an element of roughly 60 bad guys and they killed more than a dozen thanks to Nemo.

In the 1980s, the U.S. military began to transition to another breed of dog, the Belgian Red, better known as the Belgian Malinois.

Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized dog breed that's highly prized in the military due to its agility, intelligence, and high energy levels. These dogs are often used for tasks that require speed and precision, such as bomb detection and tracking. Belgian Malinois are also known for their loyalty and devotion to their handlers, making them excellent partners in high-stress situations.

A famous military working dog, Cairo, was a part of the S.E.A.L team that killed Osama Bin Laden. Malinois definitely get bonus points as one of the most kick ass military dog breeds. Cairo died of health issues and had to be put down in 2015.

There is also Lucca, a half-breed Marine Corps explosives detection dog who served deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan during her six-year career, leading nearly 400 patrols and identifying about 40 improvised explosive devices, according to the Department of Defense.

military dog breeds patrol work

Not a single Marine was injured while following the half German shepherd, half Belgian Malinois. But on March 23, 2012, Lucca was injured while leading a patrol in Afghanistan with her handler. Shortly after she found an IED, another device detonated, badly injuring Lucca. Her handler applied a tourniquet and she was quickly placed on a medevac for advanced treatment.

She survived, but she lost her left front leg. Lucca was medically retired, but quickly adjusted to life with three limbs and a new home with her original handler. She died in 2018.

It is important to note that Belgians also have a high-performing cousin that is also highly coveted by the U.S. military, the Dutch Shepherd.

Dutch Shepherd

The Dutch Shepherd is a highly intelligent, reliable, obedient and alert working dog. They are from sturdy, hardworking stock, like the Reds, and they have their roots in farming and ranching. They come in a variety of colors.

The Dutch Shepherd was one of the more well-used military dog breeds in the U.S. inventory. These military dog breeds are still widely used in the Netherlands as well.

Their breeding slowed during World War II and after the war, breeders were forced to mix the bloodline with other canines breeds to make what is the modern day Dutch Shepherd.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, and for good reason. With their friendly and outgoing nature, they make excellent companions and service dogs.

In the military, Labradors are often used as explosive detection and search and rescue dogs. They're also known for their keen sense of smell, which allows them to detect even the slightest trace of explosive materials.

Labs also come in various colors and have shown that they are a robust breed that can tackle the challenges and rigors of military service. This dog breed deployed extensively throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations during the Global War on Terrorism. They are great for smaller garrisons, on aircraft or on U.S. Navy ships where spaces are tight.

One famous furry friend was Gabe, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. Gabe, was a pound puppy before he was adopted and trained for military service. Just weeks after completing training in 2006 with his handler, Army Staff Sgt. Chuck Shuck, the two deployed to Iraq, where Gabe sniffed out insurgent explosives, ammunition and other weapons.

He was exceptionally productive, racking up 26 finds during his 170 combat patrols. Gabe returned home laden with accolades, and Shuck adopted him when he retired. Even then, Gabe worked on behalf of the nation, visiting with kids and wounded soldiers in hospitals. Gabe died in 2013 from cancer.

military dog breeds lab


The popularity of the Rottweiler as a military working dog has faded considerably. The Rottweiler is a large dog breed that's often used in the military due to its natural protective instincts, loyalty, and courage. They have a massive head and a large mouth which makes catching and holding a suspect quite easy for them.

These dogs are often used as guard dogs and patrol dogs due to their formidable size and strength. They are one of the few military dog breeds whose appearance is a deterrent. Rottweilers are also highly intelligent and trainable, which makes them ideal for tasks that require discipline and precision.

Culturally, Rottweilers are always portrayed as furry biting machines. In movies they are aligned with Satan as a hound from hell or they are presented as extraordinarily mean guarding machines. Rotts are big, intimidating and self-starters when it comes to patrol work, and part of the reputation is deserved because this is a military dog breed whose bite is actually worse than its bark.

Doberman Pinscher

Much like their thicker, stockier cousin the Rottweiler, the Doberman Pinscher has slowly faded from the ranks of the U.S. military dog breeds that are used. But the medium-large dog breed is still often used in the military and police forces around the world due to its speed, agility, and high energy levels.

These dogs are often used as patrol and guard dogs, as well as for tracking and detection tasks. Dobermans are also known for their intelligence, which allows them to quickly learn and execute complex tasks.

At one point in time, people thought that Dobermans were so smart, in fact, that they made a movie in the 1970s called the Doberman Gang. The movie’s storyline is about criminals who pair up with a dog trainer and teach dogs how to rob a bank. Yes, we’re serious.

The dog tricks in the movie are pretty good, but the rest of it, well, let’s just finish up this blog post.


Military dogs play a vital role in modern-day warfare, and these six military dog breeds are some of the most preferred and highly trained canines in the military. While these military dog breeds have innate abilities and temperament that make them ideal for serving in the military, it's important to note that any dog can be trained to perform various tasks with proper training, socialization, and patience.

Whether you're looking for a loyal and brave companion or a dog to perform specific tasks, these breeds are worth considering. However, consider looking at the local animal shelter or reach out to the local military base to see if they have any retiring dogs that can be adopted.

While it is true that you can teach an old dog new tricks, retiring military working dogs and dogs from the local shelter deserve a great home just as much as purebred dogs.

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