On Veterans Day, we honor all brave men and women who have served our country. However, today, March 13th, we're honoring our K9 veterans. While we often think of human veterans when we think of Veterans Day, today, we are celebrating our four-legged veterans out there.
These furry friends have served alongside their human companions in the military, providing valuable assistance and comfort. They've been trained to detect bombs and other explosives, track enemy combatants, and offer much-needed psychological support to soldiers in difficult situations. In short, they're heroes just like their two-legged counterparts - and they deserve our thanks on this special day.
What is K9 Veterans Day?
K9 Veterans Day commemorates the service and sacrifices of American working and military dogs throughout history. Today honors all service dogs, from military dogs to police and customs dogs to search and rescue dogs, border patrol dogs, and veterans’ assistance dogs. K9 Veterans Day commemorates the service and sacrifices of American working and military dogs throughout history. K9 Veterans Day honors all service dogs, from military dogs to police and customs dogs to search and rescue dogs, border patrol dogs, and veterans’ assistance dogs.
Dogs for Defense is an organization founded to train K9s to be sentries for supply deposits. The U.S. Army approved Dogs for Defense in 1942. K9 dogs have been an official part of the military since March 13, 1942.
How Do We Train K9s for Everyday Military Lives?
They have to start with some very vigorous training. Most of the training is done at Lackland Air Force Base, located in San Antonio, TX. The hours are long, and the missions require the kind of autonomy that not everyone is cut out for, including the K9s.
When the pups are around seven months old, they go through puppy training. In the same way civilians must be screened by military recruiters to see if they are a fit for the armed services, the puppies are evaluated to see if they display the attributes needed to be military working dogs.
Once evaluated and determined if they are cut out for the military, the few dogs that pass will go to DTS, Dog Training School. Every dog is different, but the course runs anywhere from 4-7 months. The entire mission of DTS is to train and certify dogs in the fundamentals of being an MWD, Military Working Dog.
Once the pups have gone through DTS, they will be shipped to their new base to be introduced to their new handler. The dog and the trainer must learn to trust and respect each other, starting with obedience training. Once the team starts working together, they must create trust, mutual respect, and most importantly, a bond.
Every single day dog teams must train. Whether it's patrol work, detection, or simple obedience, they must develop an unbreakable bond in which they fully trust one another with their lives.
Once complete, they become an official military working dog team. And any handler will tell you that handling a military working dog is not only a tremendous responsibility but also a lifetime honor.
How Are K9s Used in Combat Operations?
MWDs are trained to perform a wide variety of critical, and often dangerous, specialties:
- Sled dogs find downed airmen in snow and inaccessible regions
- Pack dogs transport up to 40 lb. loads of supplies between field units, including guns, ammo, and food
- Tracker dogs track and find
- Mine and bomb detector dogs find explosives
- Tunnel and trap detector dogs find tunnels, booby traps, and mines
- Sentry dogs assist with guard duty and warn of trespassers
- Attack dogs are used to apprehend suspects
- Tactical dogs are trained for combat situations
- Silent scout dogs alert handlers of proximity to enemy troops without barking or growling during recon
- Messenger dogs deliver messages during combat
- Casualty dogs find wounded persons either on the battlefield or in debris
What are the Challenges that K9s Face When They Return Home From Service?
Working dogs have been a part of the American military for nearly a century, saving American lives in battle throughout World War I and beyond. What these dogs do and have done is truly amazing!
“These dogs give everything,” Kristen Maurer, president, and co-founder of Mission K9, said. “Every day they get on that front line, and every day they work hard to protect our soldiers, our first responders, and our citizens. And for that, when they retire, I just feel like it’s our duty to give back to them.”
Mission K9 Rescue's mission is to rescue, reunite, re-home, rehabilitate and repair any retired working dog that has served humankind in some capacity. In Houston, TX, the main office has satellite offices in San Antonio and Los Angeles.
- Rescue – Any CWDs and MWDs, as well as any other working dog that may need our help. Mission K9 Rescue is committed to saving them and giving them the retirement they deserve, whether bringing them back from overseas or rescuing them out of a poor environment stateside.
- Reunite – Any retired working dog with a handler who wants him and has proven that they are the right home (handlers always get first preference) Mission K9 Rescue will see to it that the dog is transported to the handler.
- Re-Home – Any retired working dog that does not have a designated handler, Mission K9 Rescue will work to find the perfect loving home for the dog.
- Rehabilitate – Often, retired working dogs have been in situations that cause them severe anxiety and stress. Many retire with issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These dogs need time with us to decompress and reintegrate into society. Mission K9 Rescue works with these dogs to make them suitable for adoption.
- Repair – Working dogs train like professional athletes their entire career. Some have extensive medical issues that can become quite costly when they retire. Since they don’t receive retirement benefits, Mission K9 Rescue provides all veterinary needs while in our care.
March 13th is K9 Veterans Day, a day to celebrate the sacrifices and bravery of our furry military veterans. These dogs have dedicated their lives to serving our country, and we owe them our deepest gratitude. We’ve looked at how these dogs are trained for military service, what they do on the battlefield, and the challenges they face when they return home. But what can we do to help these amazing animals? You can do several things to show your support for K9 veterans on this special day (and every day). You can donate to organizations that work tirelessly to care for retired war dogs. You can also spread awareness of K9 Veterans Day on social media.