Dogs have been in combat with US soldiers during every major conflict, but they were not officially recognized until WWII. By the start of WWII, the military had recognized the value canine soldiers could bring and began using them primarily for recon.
Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX has been training sentry dogs since 1958. K9history.com details the manpower and dogpower that goes into training the amazing pups of the Department of Defense Military Working Dogs Training School (DoD MWD) at Lackland. Today, more than 1,000 dogs are trained at any given time by a staff of 125 from all branches of military service. The complex training techniques are designed to utilize the dogs’ natural gifts for focus and aggression to their advantage. German Shepherds and Labradors can detect weapons, bombs, gases and drugs more accurately than any available military equipment.
Just like their human brothers and sisters in arms, K-9 soldiers are susceptible to the horrors of PTSD. War dogs experience severe emotional trauma during deployment, and for some it becomes too much. If that happens, they are declared “surplus” by the military and released from service.
These heroes were thrown away or put down instead of honored. President Clinton passed “Robby’s Law” in 2000 which allows handlers and their families first dibs at adopting military animals at the end of their useful service. The dogs are next offered to law enforcement, then adoptive families. It is not uncommon for a military family to adopt a combat veteran K-9 and currently there are waiting lists of civilian families ready to adopt and love these heroes.