Why Are Military Dogs Retired?

Our writers & fact checkers independently research, test, analyze, and recommend the best motorcycle products. We may receive commissions from purchases made via our links.

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

‍Military dogs are different from your standard pets. Considering that they play a vital role in the armed forces, why are military dogs retired?

Since the dawn of time, dogs have battled alongside humans. Military dogs show the same strength, resilience, and courage as soldiers, but they don't always receive the same recognition. But what exactly leads to their retirement?

Dogs, like other military personnel, reach the age of retirement. When the time comes, they usually retire due to injury or sickness. However, the military retires them automatically after 10-12 years of service, even if they’re fit and still have a few years of life ahead of them.

Considering that they are used for infantry patrol, tracking, explosive detection, guarding bases, and casualty detection in disasters, if they are no longer capable of performing their duties, the military simply retires them. In some cases, if dogs seem to be unfit for one month of active service, they’re promptly removed from the military.

Unlike other dogs, they do not instantly get out and begin celebrating life. Hundreds of them are rerouted to Lackland Air Force Base outside San Antonio, Texas. To support our research, we have included information gathered by PBSO News Hour after they spoke to Public Affair Officer, Collen McGee. This is the article for you if you wish to know everything from hiring to retirement and the adoption of military dogs.

In this article

‍Understanding the Selection and Retirement Stage of Military Dogs

Military working dogs are among the world's most adept four-legged troops. Since World War II, these brave animals have served with US troops, saving thousands of lives and earning their stripes as valuable military assets. They must, however, pass challenging military dog requirements before they can patrol a base or go on a combat mission.

The Department of Defense purchases puppies from both domestic and foreign breeders. However, many of them are bred at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, by the DoD's owned military working dog breeding program. The state-of-the-art whelping facility of the Department of Defense, which opened in 1998, includes specialized "puppy development experts" who look after the puppies until they are roughly 8-10 weeks old.

In the same way, an individual is tested to determine if they are a good match for the military, the pups are also assessed to see if they have the qualities that military working dogs must have. Dog Training School, the military's working dog boot camp, accepts a few pups.

DTS's canine trainers are veteran handlers from all military branches, and for many, being sent there is a dream job. DTS's fundamental aim is to teach and certify dogs to work with people with disabilities. Each dog is different, but they usually stay at DTS for about 4 to 7 months.

Next, the top trainers will evaluate the dog's capability to detect and patrol. Even in this environment, dogs might fail and be kicked out of the program. Some washouts are repurposed as training dogs for new handlers enrolled in primary handlers schools. The dogs who pass receive the prestigious designation of military working dogs, although they are not yet mission-ready.

Reasons Military Dogs Get Retired

The MWD (Military Working Dog) selection procedure necessitates using the most active and lively pups for fighting. But, after years of battling, these senior canines reach the age of retirement. But what exactly happens that a military dog reaches the retirement stage?

Some retire due to physical concerns such as hearing or vision loss, whereas others retire because they are just too old to perform their duties. Dogs missing essential orders or cues might be linked to cognitive loss, which can be the reason for retirement as well. Some dogs fail to make the initial cut for service and are placed for adoption as "career-change dogs." In some cases, if dogs seem to be unfit for one month of active service, they are immediately removed from the military.

What Happens After a Military Dog Is Retired?

The dogs were euthanized before the implementation of "Robby's legislation" in 2000, which began the adoption program at Lackland, said Collen McGee, Public Affairs Officer, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

According to McGee, Lackland raises its military puppies, but half the dogs fail the aptitude exam. As a result, the dogs who have served and those who did not pass the aptitude exams are now available for adoption. The dog's handler is given first preference for adoption, but it subsequently opens up to other military or civilian adopters.

"Since so many people want one of our dogs, the waiting list is 18 months to two years lens longer. It's great to mention that almost 430 dogs were adopted last year." McGee added.

As the dogs are elderly, and they may have health concerns such as arthritis. As a result, adopters who do not pay a fee for their new pet are given a month's supply of drugs to get them started.

“Working dogs have invested themselves and endure arduous jobs not by choice, but because of their devotion and affinity with their handlers,” according to Daphna Nachminovitch, Vice President of Cruelty Investigations at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"I believe it is critical for us as Americans and the military to know that these dogs are compelled to undertake tasks that most humans would refuse to do. Their handlers and the troops who work with them are the only ones who actually, truly know what they provide us," she added.

McGee acknowledged that the dogs are placed in difficult circumstances. Still, they are the only ones capable of doing specific jobs, such as detecting a component in an explosive to locate it before it detonates.

"The dogs save lives; they are the most effective in this regard. I've seen these dogs at work, and they seem to enjoy themselves." she stated emphatically.

The dogs are aware that the task is difficult for them, and even their adoptive families know this. According to McGee, "one of the handlers she spoke with acquired a dog with anxiety signs linked to a post-traumatic stress disorder, and his 11-month-old daughter can give the dog directions." She went on to say, "It's very great."

"The reality of what these dogs are employed for definitely has a profound impact on them." These canines, like people, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. "I think we owe them a joyful, loving home at least into retirement so that they may be a dog," Nachminovitch added.

To sum up, dogs have a sense of smell that is around 50 times stronger than humans, allowing them to detect IEDs before they can cause any damage. The military alone can only locate around half of the IEDs planted in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the detection rate rises to 80% with dogs, proving that they are a vital tool for our ground patrols' freedom of mobility.

In the same way, a soldier must know his weapon inside and out and maintain it every day, a handler must train, groom, and know everything about their MWD. Once the kennel master is satisfied that the team can work together effectively, a formal MWD team certification is issued.

Whether it's patrol work, detection, or basic obedience, all dogs must form an unbreakable connection and completely trust one another with their lives. Both dogs, not just one, must be exceptional for a dog team to work properly. On the battlefield, it's understandable that these military working dogs and their handlers form a deep bond. However, reuniting them after their various tours of duty is difficult.

Military personnel should understand that these dogs are trained to perform tasks that most humans refuse to do. While military working dogs weren't killed in the same numbers as their animal predecessors a century ago, they still perform a vital role in assisting the military on the battlefield and in the personal fights that can follow. After they are discharged, they should be reunited to enjoy retirement together.