At A Glance
You have likely chanced upon K-9 or police dogs at places. But what makes them different from the other dogs? While all dogs can be trained, only a few excel in police dog training.
Here’s what you should know:
Last Updated on: July 13, 2023
Bouvier des Flandres
American Pit Bull Terrier
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve always found military dogs fascinating. Many breeds are used in military operations worldwide, from the brave German Shepherds that sniff out explosives to the loyal Belgian Malinois that protect troops.
The Germans were the first to create military dog-training programs in the late 19th century. They used canines to transport and guard essential supplies and scope out the wounded during wars. Eventually, dogs became a part of the military throughout the world and participated in WWI, WWII, and even the American Civil War.
Today, military dogs are an essential and valued part of the country’s armed services. The U.S. Department of Defense trains canines while they’re young to detect bombs and narcotics, patrol, and track. Despite their rigorous training and incredible discipline, they remain loyal, gentle, and true to their nature.
Here’s a comprehensive overview of some of these amazing military service dog breeds and their special capabilities:
During the Vietnam War, German Shepherds were used as guard dogs on Air Force bases. But as the war escalated, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps teamed up to train German Shepherds as scout dogs – a skill they hadn’t used since World War II!
To this day, German Shepherds remain one of the top military working dog breeds, making a large portion of the U.S. Military Working Dog program. Navy SEAL Teams and Special Operators also use German Shepherds to make HALO (High Altitude, Low Open) parachute jumps to get on the ground undetected.
Rottweilers were used during WWI and WWII as messengers and guard dogs. Like other messenger dogs, they were responsible for carrying critical messages to and from the front lines, significantly contributing to the success of numerous military operations and battles.
Because of their loyalty, strength, and obedience, Rottweilers are among the most trusted military dog breeds. They excel at long-distance messaging and guarding troops. Plus, they have a strong territorial instinct to protect their team from intruders. Rotties have a bite force of 328 PSI, one of the most powerful breeds!
The Doberman Pinscher, a large and highly trainable dog, has been a part of the military for a while. Dobermans served in both World Wars, but they were officially a part of the K-9 division in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII. Their bravery and service made them the finest military canines in American history.
In addition to being sentry dogs, Dobermans were trained for other tasks like search and rescue, correspondence, delivering ammunition and medical supplies, and scent tracking.
These days, Dobermans are not widely employed as military service dogs due to their sensitivity to cold weather. However, some countries still prefer them.
Another intelligent breed employed at war, Boxers were particularly used when radio communications were not reliable or possible. The breed was trained to work with two handlers, and their job was to run messages back and forth on the battlefield.
These canine friends have also served in military operations, such as search-and-rescue missions and identifying explosives. Today, they are mostly used as family dogs, but their loyalty, courage, and intelligence still make them excellent candidates for military work.
To this day, Germany employs Boxers as military and police dogs.
The Briard, a large and exceptionally fluffy French breed, was traditionally used for herding and guarding sheep. They are exceptionally loyal, lively, and affectionate towards their owners.
Although they were initially bred to work on pastures and ranches, professionals thought their intelligence, size, stamina, and courage would make them well-suited for military and police work, and look how that worked out.
These dogs were initially bred for hunting, but their adaptability has made them successful in various fields.
Springer Spaniels are also proficient in police duties such as identifying dangerous substances and drugs and locating missing people. They’re also an ideal choice for police work because of how stealthy they are.
Because they are bred to work alongside humans, they are obedient and eager to please. That said, Springer Spaniels need a lot of attention and don’t do well when left alone for too long.
Probably one of the most popular dog breeds, Labrador Retrievers are highly preferred by the U.S. military even today.
These dogs worked hard during the Vietnam War alongside combat troops and were deployed into the dense jungles to search for wounded and missing men. Labradors proved to be exceptionally skilled and became instrumental in saving numerous lives, thanks to their remarkable sense of smell.
We may know Labrador Retrievers as loving, cute, and loyal. But even today, they continue to serve in the military as explosive-detector dogs.
Also known as the Groenendael, the Belgian Sheepdog is similar to the Belgian Malinois. However, their long, thick coats make them less suitable for military work. Instead, they served as ambulance dogs and messengers during World War I and as war dogs in World War II.
The Belgian Sheepdog is quick, agile, and muscular – all the right qualities needed in a canine.
There was a time when the Giant Schnauzer was not known outside of Bavaria, where the breed was developed as a farm dog. It gained popularity during WWI and WWII, but only got the appreciation it needed in 1980 when the U.S. Air Force reintroduced them as bomb-detection dogs.
While it’s not among the most common military dog breeds, the U.S. Air Force continues to train them. In fact, Brock, a Giant Schnauzer, escorted former President Donald Trump as part of his security detail during the G20 summit in 2017.
Popular as pets and military recruits in equal measure, Beagles have an incredible sense of smell. Because the breed was originally developed to hunt hares, they have developed an exceptionally keen nose, making them ideal for border crossings and airport control points.
Impressively, trained Beagles can sniff out illegal substances that other dog breeds might miss. Plus, their smaller size also gives them an advantage, as they can easily maneuver through tight spots during search and rescue missions.
The Belgian Malinois is among the most popular U.S. military dog breeds today. They look quite similar to German Shepherds, a close relative also popular in the military. In addition to their looks, they have similar temperaments. The only thing that sets them apart is the Belgian Malinois’s slightly smaller frame.
However, their size makes them ideal for parachuting or rappelling into mission sites with handlers. This breed’s strong protective instinct, dedication, and quick reaction time make it one of the best dog breeds for the military.
Deemed as one of the top three military dog breeds used by the U.S. military, along with German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds are a class apart.
Although they may look similar to German Shepherds, they are different and have unique qualities. These dogs are known for being hardworking, loyal, and super active. Dutch Shepherds are often trained for general patrol and explosive detection duties.
These dogs were originally bred to catch rats in industrial settings before they became popular as pampered companion pets for fashionable Victorian women. But who would’ve thought they’d be a part of the military?
Despite their small size, Yorkshire Terriers possess a courageous personality that makes them suitable for certain military tasks. One notable example of their usefulness was during World War II when they were trained to pull telegraph wires through narrow tunnels to enable communication. Yorkshire Terriers may look delicate with their shiny, long coat, but they have a spunky and resilient Terrier spirit.
The Airedale Terrier was a popular breed utilized by the British military during World War I, but it is no longer employed as a military working dog.
These dogs were trained to be communication dogs and carry messages across the battlefield before the advent of radio. They worked with two handlers, one sent to the front lines and the other at the command. Airedale Terriers carried letters attached to their collars, delivering them to the second handler.
Even today, the Airedale Terriers are known for their speed, loyalty, and skill to remain unnoticed and hidden, making them a vital part of the command and communication system.
During World War II, the U.S. Military utilized Alaskan Malamutes as sled and pack dogs to transport military equipment and supplies through snowy and harsh terrain.
These dogs were also recognized for their ability to rescue survivors on the battlefield. The Malamute also served as excellent alarm dogs to warn troops, saving many lives.
The Bouvier des Flandres, also known as the Cow Herder of Flanders, may appear carefree at first, but they are actually excellent guard dogs.
Their large, muscular, and rough-coated appearance makes them look as tough as they are. From herding sheep to pulling carts and apprehending criminals, the breed can do it all, as evidenced during their service in WWI and WWII.
The Bouvier des Flandres continues to be a favored breed for military and police jobs because of its majestic appearance, intelligence, and faithfulness.
The Cane Corso is an Italian short-haired mastiff known for its large, muscular, and imposing appearance. They also have a strong sense of loyalty, which makes them fiercely territorial.
Due to their high intelligence and risk-taking nature, police officials prefer using them as front-line responders. Cane Corsos also have a strong work ethic and don’t hesitate to get in harm’s way to obey their handlers.
The Mastiff breed is so old it is believed to have been used by Ancient Roman and Greek armies as attack dogs fitted with spiked armor. They were sent into battle to attack the enemy before the troops could. Militaries use this tactic even today.
Nowadays, though, Mastiffs are not used for military purposes. Instead, they are bred as pet and guard dogs.
Bloodhounds, known for their excellent sense of smell, make excellent security and detection dogs. With 300 million scent receptors, they have a keen nose that’s highly sensitive, allowing them to follow a scent for miles even after days. They can be nearly stubborn when they track a scent.
As a result, police prefer using them to train to locate drugs and explosives and even track down fugitives. The military also employs them to follow scents and locate land mines or missing soldiers.
A medium-sized breed, the Border Collie was originally bred as a herding dog by the British. They are highly energetic, athletic, and one of the world’s most intelligent breeds of dogs.
When they are not frolicking around, they can be seen in police outfits protecting their handlers, tracking down criminals, and detecting hazardous substances with a passion.
The Tervuren is a Belgian Shepherd breed that is long-haired and fluffy. It is the second-most-popular type of Belgian Shepherd after the Malinois. Although they have different appearances, the Tervuren and Malinois share similar traits – both are highly trainable, fiercely loyal, and protective of their owners.
Law enforcement loves their work ethic and intimidating appearance, which is enough to deter intruders. They are also suitable for tasks such as search and rescue and detection.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is often portrayed as a violent street dog, but they can make excellent law enforcement breeds due to their strength, obedience, trainability, and discipline.
They are also intelligent and fiercely protective of their family and home. That said, the breed needs a responsible trainer who is willing to invest time and effort in training and socializing them to prevent aggressive behavior.
The United States Department of Defense (DOD) considers the Belgian Malinois the ideal military dog. The DOD exclusively raises Belgian Malinois puppies in its U.S. Military Working Dog Breeding Program. These dogs are quick, agile, and muscular, making them perfect for vigorous training.
In the US, military dogs receive training to serve the troops. Their main job responsibilities are patrol, scent tracking, search and rescue, and attack.
K-9s are usually seen on borders, airports, malls, or any public place prone to attacks.
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