How to Adopt a Retired Military Dog

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Retired Military Dog

Adopting a Retired Military Dog

Military dogs have fought alongside man for centuries, going as far back as the Roman Empire.

In the United States, the first official use of dogs in the US military dates back to the Second Seminole War, which started in 1835. They were then still subsequently used in the Civil War around thirty years later.

Still used almost 200 years later, these animals play a vital part in keeping our country safe.

Usually, German Shepherd breeds (though Dobermans are just as likely), these dogs, once the missions are complete, these dogs are ready to go in search of a new home.

MWD (Military Working Dog) is the term used when referring to retired dogs that have served in the forces.

These furry heroes usually retire due to age though health complications that would affect the ability of the animal to perform its duty may also be at play.

When accessing if a military dog is right for you, asking yourself the following questions can be useful:

Veteran Dogs for Adoption

Do I have enough room in my home to adopt a retired military dog?

Sometimes, people with the best intentions want to welcome a dog into their family, but do not have the adequate space needed for an active dog.

According to Veterinarian Dr. Kathryn Primm, “Opportunities for active and social play provide a mental and physical outlet for dogs.” It is essential that dogs have a large enough area to get physical exercise as this impacts them both physically and mentally.

How much care and attention can I provide a dog?

Dogs need attention even more than humans do.

Pack animals by evolution, social interaction with humans is a monumental factor to a dog’s health. Likewise, if you are looking to adopt a service animal, know physical ailments may be present, especially in older dogs.

One thing to note is that once a dog is retired from its duties and adopted, it is up to the owner to pay the medical expenses.

Not only do these animals need attention but also an owner who has the financial means of being able to take care of them.

Who else lives in my home that might not be compatible with a new dog?

While most retired service dogs do not differ from any other dog one could adopt, making sure everyone in your home is compatible with your pooch’s personality is essential.

For instance, big dogs and small children sometimes do not match well because the dog could easily injure the child, even when it was not intending to.

Military Dog in Action

Adoption criteria

If you decided to adopt a retired military dog, there are some requirements that need to be met as you will have some obligations and responsibilities.

For example, they should not work as a service dog under any circumstances.

Another example: Veterans and handlers get priority, then law enforcement and civilians are third in the line.

According to US War Dogs, 90% of the retired military dogs are adopted by Handlers.

Adoption checks will include:

  1. Your local vet will be contacted to verify if you take proper medical care of your pets.
  2. Your residence meets some specific standards required to adopt a former military dog. (Age of children if you have one, the number of pets, etc)
  3. The time you will have to share with your dog, usually what is reviewed is if your work schedule and your work/lifestyle are balanced.
  4. You can afford the transportation fee to bring/deliver your dog home.

Doberman Relaxing

The Challenge for a Former Military Dog

Former military dogs need help to adapt to the civilian life, this i the factor why the home checks are extensive.

Remember, all their lives was training, combat and not exposure to experiences other dogs live daily other than military activities.

For example, explosion detection, search, and rescue are not activities that a regular dog experience into normal life.

Some former military dogs suffer from PTSD-like symptoms and may need help calming down.

Maybe a former military dog may have excellent obedience skills but still do not understand how to play or how to react to small things like the knock of a door or the petting of a child.

Some of these dogs may have severe separation anxiety or be involuntarily abused. Anxiety or PTSD can manifest in unexpected violent behavior like biting.

It will take time and patience but these are the sacrifices that people have to be ready to make to adopt a former military dog.

Military dogs ready for adoption


The average waiting time for an interview to adopt a former military dog is around 6 months.

As the most common breeds are Labrador, German Sheppard, Belgian Malinois, Doberman and some mixed breeds between1-13 years old, there is no option to choose a particular dog.

All dogs are evaluated and classified into 3 categories before be available for adoption:

  • Dogs for civilian families.
  • Dogs for dog trainers, behaviorists and for veterans.
  • Dogs only for law enforcement or training new military dogs.

You will need to need to be patient and realize that there are hundreds of applications processed every month, but remember, Adopting a former military dog you’re doing a good thing


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